A Florida fossil hunter who illegally dug up dinosaur skeletons from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia was sentenced on Tuesday to three months in prison on charges that he smuggled the bones into the United States, then used them to reassemble a Tyrannosaurus bataar, above, that he sold for $1 million through a New York auction house.
The man, Eric Prokopi of Gainesville, Fla., pleaded guilty in 2012 and surrendered the bones along with several other sets of 70-million-year-old dinosaur fossils. As part of his sentence he will also serve 15 months of probation.
Mr. Prokopi, who is 39, put the 8-foot-high, 24-foot-long dinosaur up for sale at Heritage Auctions in Manhattan. The house sold it for $1 million in 2012 but the sale was annulled after two paleontologists noticed the auction, grew suspicious and alerted United States officials.
“Heritage Auctions fully cooperated with U.S. and Mongolian authorities to safeguard the fossils pending the outcome of their investigation in this case,” said Noah Fleisher, a spokesman for the company. “We hope that Mr. Prokopi’s sentence will send a strong message that this abhorrent practice will not be tolerated.”
Prosecutors said the fossils had been falsely labeled as reptile bones from Britain when they were shipped into the United States. The skeleton was returned to Mongolia in May.