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Fossils Dealer Gets 3 Months In Prison For Smuggling Tyrannosaurus Skeleton

An image from documents released by the U.S. Attorney's office shows the fossil of a Tyrannosaurus bataar dinosaur. (credit: US Attorney's Office Southern District of New York)

An image from documents released by the U.S. Attorney’s office shows the fossil of a Tyrannosaurus bataar dinosaur. (credit: US Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York U.S. District judge on Tuesday sentenced a Florida fossils dealer to three months in prison for smuggling a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus skeleton out of Mongolia.

Eric Prokopi of Gainesville, Florida, also will serve three months in community confinement.

Federal prosecutors said Prokopi smuggled the bones of the Tyrannosaurus bataar from the Gobi Desert into the U.S. and then assembled them.

It was seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after it was sold at auction in New York City for more than $1 million in 2012. The deal was suspended.

Investigators found 400 pounds of fossils in Prokopi’s home, he pleaded guilty to charges related to fossil smuggling, CBS 2’s Dana Tyler reported last year.

The government said the dinosaur skeleton was mislabeled as reptile bones from Great Britain.

“(They smuggled it in by) saying that it came from countries that it didn’t, saying it was something it wasn’t,” ICE Director John Morton told “CBS This Morning” last year. “This was a very large dinosaur. Hundreds of bones had to be brought in actually from the rock in which it was dug up in the Gobi Desert and then ultimately assembled here in New York.”

By law, any dinosaur fossils found in Mongolia belong to the country and its people.

Robert Painter, attorney for the Mongolian government, told CBS This Morning last year that these kinds of sales drive a black market.

The skeleton has been returned to Mongolia.

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