Arrests for alleged fossil 'black market'

Oct. 17, 2012 at 5:17 PM
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NEW YORK, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Prosecutors say they've charged a Florida man with illegally importing dinosaur fossils from Asia, including one that sold for more than $1 million at auction.

Federal agents arrested Eric Prokopi at his home in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday, CNN reported.

"Our investigation uncovered a one-man black market in prehistoric fossils," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Prokopi, whose business Everything Earth sells dinosaur skeletons, allegedly conspired to smuggle prehistoric dinosaur parts into the United States from Mongolia and China by falsifying information on customs forms on imports from 2010 through August 2012, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors have also filed civil charges against Prokopi, seeking the forfeiture of a Mongolian Tyrannosaurus skeleton that sold in a New York auction for $1 million.

Under Mongolian law, fossils belong to the Mongolian government and exporting them from the country is a criminal offense.

"We want to make this illegal business practice extinct in the United States," said special agent James Hayes of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. "This fossil is a symbol of the rich cultural heritage of the Mongolian people."

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