Criminal Justice

Paleontologist, 'a one-man black market in prehistoric fossils,' gets time for $1M dinosaur sale

A paleontologist described by a federal prosecutor as “a one-man black market in prehistoric fossils” was sentenced to three months in prison on Tuesday for his role in plotting to smuggle dinosaur bones and other remains from Mongolia.

Eric Prokopi, 39, pleaded guilty in 2012 to three felony counts related to a New York City auction in 2011 in which a smuggled Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton was sold for a little over $1 million, reports Reuters.

The successful efforts of a Texas lawyer to reverse the sale of the T. rex bones, on behalf of the Mongolian government, are detailed in an earlier post.

Prokopi cooperated and helped the feds recover at least 17 other dinosaur fossils, and his lawyer, Georges Lederman, argued that he should not be sent to prison. However, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said Prokopi’s prison term in the Manhattan case would serve as a cautionary example to other paleontologists tempted by potential criminal profits.

“He is clearly not a bad person, but he has done a bad thing,” said the judge of Prokopi.

Related coverage: “T. rex suit takes Texas lawyer to NYC and Mongolia” “Documentary on legal battle over T. rex bones kicks off Sundance Film Festival”

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