Florida Man Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Dinosaurs
A Florida man is being taken to court for dinosaur smuggling. While this immediately brings to mind a Dinotopian reality, the man, Eric Prokopi, was accused of and pleaded guilty to smuggling a multitude of dinosaur fossil and skeletal remains into the States, an activity that is highly illegal. Included among the specimens is a prized 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton worth $1 million. The U.S. Attorneys office is now handling the case, hoping to return that skeleton and the other historical pieces to their countries of origin.
Currently the 38-year-old Prokopi is hanging out in Gainsville, Florida on bail before an April 25 hearing that will determine whether he will earn a full 17-year-long sentence or something a little more lenient. The man has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for importing a dinosaur from China, as well as earned another count for bringing goods into the country (and along U.S. roads) that were fraudulently labeled and transported. The items were shipped between 2010 and 2012 with customs documents stating they had been obtained in Great Britain, rather than in places that would bring the customs people sniffing a little more closely at the objects.
If it was one illegal set of dinosaur remains that would be one thing, but according to The AP, there were multiple skeletons and fossils found in the man’s home, with more potentially still located in Great Britain (Anyone know how the Brits handle imports and exports of dinosaurs?). Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin S. Bell says it is “among the larger dinosaur shopping lists you'll see today,” a list featuring another partially complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton, multiple Oviraptor specimens, a fly dinosaur from China, and a Saurolophus. The collection sounds very much like a set of dinosaurs I owned as a child. However, mine were roughly three inches tall, completely legal, and made of plastic.
Photo Credit @Shutterstock/ Sofia Santos