As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” While to the average person,
old bones might not be an item of interest, there is apparently a high end fossil market, and Eric Prokopi of Florida was arrested for smuggling ancient bones out of certain areas, and selling them at high prices.
In May, a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton was seized by the U.S. government after being privately auctioned for $1.05 million. Prokopi is accused of illegally taking the dinosaur skeleton from the Gobi dessert, and using it for his own profit while Mongolian law specifically prohibits the sale of dinosaur bones found within Mongolian bounds for monetary gain. Prokopi is a known commercial paleontologist who has a web-business www.everything-earth.com selling everything from coral to fossils. This seizure has brought other sales by Prokopi into question, and Reuters reports he is now accused of running a “one man black market in prehistoric fossils,” and is also under investigation for the following list of fossils:
- Saurolophus angustirostris fossil sold for $75,000 to a California gallery in 2012
- Microraptor bones falsely labeled as a “sample of craft rock” from China
- Gallimimus and an oviraptor fossil that may have also been illegally taken from the Bugan Tsav region of Mongolia
The United States government is cooperating with Mongolia and China’s efforts to prosecute Prokopi by seizing fossils, and helping with an investigation. If convicted, Prokopi may face up to 35 years in prison.