Feds to return 70-million-year-old dinosaur fossil to Mongolian government
The feds are sending home a 70-million-year-old Mongolian dinosaur.
Its fossilized skull and vertebrae, that is.
Brooklyn prosecutors have filed a lawsuit to seize the stolen remains, which the fossil dealer falsely described in shipping documents as a cheap replica of dinosaur bones from France.
Last January, the ancient bones were shipped through the United Parcel Service by Geofossils Inc. of France with its destination a storage facility in Long Island City, Queens, according to papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
But suspicious Customs and Border Protection officers put a hold on the shipment and sought further documentation.
The fossil dealer confessed that the skull and vertebrae were originally from Mongolia and also clarified that although the UPS invoice stated that the items were being sold for $3,400, a buyer had actually agreed to a purchase price of $250,000, according to the court papers.
U.S. officials contacted the Mongolian government, which tracked down the original copy of the certificate of origin cited by Geofossils Inc.
The paperwork described the shipment only as four traditional dwelling structures. The Geofossils certificate of origin provided to the feds had been altered to add references to a combination of dwellings and Tarbosaurus dinosaur fossils in the shipment, Assistant U.S. Attorney Karin Orenstein alleges in the suit.
“Property of cultural and historic significance that has been stolen from other countries will not find safe harbor in our ports,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
“We are proud of our ongoing role in the repatriation of stolen and smuggled cultural property to its rightful owners.
“The fossils are the rightful property of Mongolia and cannot be sold to non-Mongolians or permanently exported out of the homeland,” Lynch said.
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