Step One:Connect with Widescale Transcontinental Black Market in Dinosaur Fossils Originating from Mongolia
Step Two:Ask for the Shipping Labels to be Deliberately Vague and Misleading to Avoid Bringing Attention to the Shipments
Step Three:Illegally Import Multiple Containers of Dinosaurs from Vast Central Asian Countries via the UK
Step Four:Spend a Year Restoring the Fossils, Mount What was Once a Loose Collection of Bones to Recreate a Skeleton
Step Five:Find an Auction House to Sell the Fossils at a Major Profit
Step Six:Use Flair and Panache to Describe the Newly Mounted Fossils
|Very subtle. "Superb" and "wonderful" really keep this fossil on the down low.|
Step Seven:The Tricky Part – list the fossils with as much flair and intrigue as you can, yet beware because you never know if the Mongolian President is scanning Texas auction house listings, and if he is, he’s likely to get rightly pissed if he spots his fossils on the market.
This is where Eric Prokopi, 38, from Gainesville, FL starts to feel some serious pressure. He followed steps 1 through 7 fairly well, but blew it in the end.
He described the Tarbosaurus remains he was auctioning off as:
“The quality of the preservation is superb, with wonderful bone texture and delightfully mottled grayish bone color. In striking contrast are those deadly teeth, long and frightfully robust, in a warm woody brown color, the fearsome, bristling mouth and monstrous jaws leaving one in no doubt as to how the creature came to rule its food chain.”Very discreet.
Well, that caught the eye of Mongolian officials, who got on the phone to get their bones back. Advisor to Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Oyungerel Tsedevdamba said, “the dinosaur has the color of the Gobi sand,” adding “such color is very particular and familiar to us and belongs to this country.”
|Mongolians get a bad rep. They just don't want grave robbers stealing all their national artifacts.|
The auction was halted in May 2012, transforming “just a guy from Gainesville, Florida trying to support (his) family” into an international bone smuggler, by reputation, anyhow.
He’s facing up to 17 years in prison, a $250,000 fine due to charges of conspiring to smuggle illegal goods, transporting goods taken by fraud, and using false statements to import goods.
US Customs officials, lawyers, a Texas judge, federal prosecutors and the Mongolian president, are now all gunning for Prokopi, who’s become regarded as the Jason Borne of commercial paleontology.
The legendary Scotland Yard has become involved, too, as its art and antiques unit is answering questions of the US Department of Justice to crack down on widescale transcontinental black market in dinosaur fossils originating from Mongolia.
His cache of goods is pretty wicked, though.
The figurehead of this investigation is a 70-million-year-old Mongolian monster - a “nearly complete” Tarbosaurus baatar – which remains at large in an unspecified British location, cutely named “Ty,” according to some reports.
The Tarbosaurus was a bad-ass Tyrannosaur from a specific location in the Gobi Desert known as the Nemegt Basin. It was 12 metres long with 64 teeth living in the late cretaceous, about 70 million years ago.
The Tarbosaurus is one of six sets of dinosaur fossils Prokopi has forfeited back to Mongolia.
He had a Chinese flying dinosaur (no name given), two oviraptors and a Saurolophus. One of the Saurolophus skeletons (now seized) was sold at auction for $75,000!
Now nowhere is safe from this investigation.
That’s right, they’re chasing down all the fossils involved, including a skull seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations who, I’m sure with a special ops team and helicopters, repelled into a Cheyenne, Wyoming home to confiscate more black-market bones.
Pretty bad ass!
Voice of Russia, the Daily News, BBC