Federal Prosecutor: Paleontologist May Have Access, Be Able To Sell Other Fossils

The Wall Street Journal on October 23, 2012 released the following:

“By Chad Bray

A commercial paleontologist accused of illegally importing dinosaur fossils, including a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton from Mongolia, may have access to additional fossils that could sell for more than a half-million dollars, prosecutors said Monday.

The existence of additional dinosaur bones, including possibly another Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton, was a key point of contention Monday as federal prosecutors argued that bail should be increased for Eric Prokopi. He was released on $100,000 bail after his arrest in Florida last week and ordered confined in his home.

Prosecutors in Manhattan accused Mr. Prokopi, a Gainesville, Fla., commercial paleontologist, of repeatedly misrepresenting the contents of shipments to the U.S. of dinosaur fossils from overseas between 2010 and 2012, including a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton.

The Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton was seized by federal agents following an auction in New York earlier this year and has been the subject of a civil lawsuit.

At a bail hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Bell noted that an additional shipment containing 400 pounds of fossils arrived at Mr. Prokopi’s home while it was being searched by federal agents following his arrest last Wednesday. The fossils included the skeleton of another Mongolian dinosaur, Mr. Bell said.

However, Georges Lederman, Mr. Prokopi’s lawyer, argued that his client, even if he had access to additional fossils, wouldn’t be able to sell them given the publicity following the government’s probe.

“The notion that anybody would buy a dinosaur fossil from him is absurd,” Mr. Lederman said. “My client is radioactive when it comes to trying to earn a living in his business.”

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Henry Pittman ordered Mr. Prokopi’s bail be increased to $250,000, but also eliminated the condition that he be confined to his home.”


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