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Man Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Dinosaur Skeletons Into U.S.

FILE - A fossil of a Microraptor on display in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

FILE – A fossil of a Microraptor on display in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Florida man has pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to smuggling dinosaur fossils into the U.S.

Eric Prokopi, 38, of Gainesville admitted he lied to U.S. Customs agents when he brought a 70 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton into the country from Mongolia and China.

Between 2010 and 2012, Prokopi acquired the fossils from their countries of origin and illegally transported them to the U.S. by misrepresenting the contents of the shipments on customs forms, prosecutors had argued.

Under the plea deal, Prokopi will give up claims to a total of three Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons, three other skeletons and other unassembled dinosaur pieces.

Prokopi pleaded guilty to illegally importing fossils that included a nearly complete Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton and a Saurolophus angustirostris skeleton from Mongolia as well as a Microraptor skeleton from China.

Prosecutors will recommend leniency in sentencing in exchange for the guilty plea from the fossil dealer.

Prokopi pleaded guilty to conspiracy, the fraudulent transfer of dinosaur bones and making false statements to customs authorities, which carry a potential sentence of up to 17 years in prison.

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