Bone Smuggler

Here’s the latest on the stolen dinosaur bones which were auctioned off for a million bucks in May. The NY Daily News reviews the latest in the ongoing saga (interspersed with random “fossil” news).

In short, the guy who obtained the fossils to build the skeleton that went to auction, has been spending his summer crabbing about the Supreme Court decision to return the fossils to the Mongolian government. A small army of paleontologists checked it out thoroughly and decided that there was no way possible that the fossils had come from anywhere BUT Mongolia, and it’s been illegal to remove them from the country without permission for the last 90 or so years.

A paper trail was followed, and it led back to Prokopi who was sticking with a story that the fossils were legally obtained and he was just a guy who loved to put dinosaur skeletons together to feed his family. He felt like the Mongolian and US governments were being total jerks for trying to get to the bottom of things to get this pretty miraculous assemblage where it was supposed to be.

Well, surprise. He was lying.

He’s now been arrested and criminal charges for smuggling lots and lots of illegally obtained fossils have been filed. Photos of him actually digging stuff up out of the ground in Mongolia have come to light. His company website has an “about us” page, telling the story of how he and his wife built up the business of taking the rare treasures of other parts of the world, decorating Florida McMansions with their spoils and turning it into a profitable family business. He definitely thought he had the system figured out.

I’d be less annoyed with this guy if he hadn’t been so adamant about getting the bones back and even trying to take legal action against the decision to return the skeleton to its rightful home. Now that he’s been nabbed he’s threatening that the black market for stolen fossils and artifacts will now be driven even deeper underground. No pun intended.