Perhaps there are some illegal items you could sneak past officials in order to sell them in the U.S., but advertising some really great dinosaur skeletons and fossils you’re ready to unload for the right price, well,that’ll likely get you snagged right quick. A man who described a lot for sale at auction with “a superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton” found out that was a speedy way to tip off the authorities or in this case, experts.
That catalog got collectors excited and the skeleton sold for more than $1 million. A paleontologist of the American Museum of Natural History caught wind of the T-Rex listing, and wrote an open letter saying: “These specimens were undoubtedly looted from Mongolia.”
From there on out, things quickly fell into place, starting with the Mongolian president, who obtained a court order to block the auction.
On Thursday, the man who’d shipped the skeleton from the Gobi Desert and brought it to the auction house admitted he’d done so fraudulently, reports the New York Times, and that wasn’t the only dinosaur he’d brought in.
“I forwarded a few shipments of fossils of Mongolian origin from Great Britain to the U.S. that were mislabeled,” the man told a magistrate judge in Federal District Court in Manhattan. “I imported and transported Mongolian fossils that were exported from Mongolia without the proper permits.”
See, you can’t just waltz around importing dinosaurs and fossils, according to federal law, and you sure as heck can’t just lift them from Mongolia and ship them wherever you want. That’s called stealing from the Mongolian government. Thus, the man pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate federal law when he smuggled the fossil of a flying dinosaur from China to the U.S., and making false statements for all his dino-trafficking business.
He could face up to 17 years in prison, and had to give up the T-Rex skeleton he’d auctioned, as well as two other of the same sort and a hadrosaur skeleton. He handed over two Oviraptor skeletons that had been taken from his properties as well.
“It’s one of the longer dinosaur shopping lists,” the prosecutor told the judge. Oddly enough, it’s an exact copy of my dinosaur shopping list!
The man’s site seems to openly appeal to dino lovers everywhere — all those little boys and girls who wish they could have a giant lizard of their very own. It touts: “That’s right, we sell dinosaurs! To whom, you might ask, and we say to anyone that wants one!”
Man Admits to Smuggling Asian Fossils of Dinosaurs [New York Times]