Earlier this week, a federal judge signed an order directing the U.S. government to take possession of the Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton that had been sold last month by Dallas' own Heritage Auctions.
The fossil, the government said, had been looted from the Gobi Desert some time between 1995 and 2005 and illegally brought into the United States in 2010. Customs forms listed its value as $15,000 when in actuality it was more like $1 million and incorrectly identified the country of origin as Great Britain. Also, the importer did not mention that he was importing a dinosaur, only "two, large, rough fossil reptile heads; six boxes of broken fossil bones; three rough fossil reptiles; one fossil lizard; three rough fossil reptiles and one fossil reptile skull."
DHS carried out the seizure earlier today, according to an agency press release. Thanks to The Associated Press, we know it was being kept in crates at a Cadogan Tate Fine Art property in Queens and will be taken to an undisclosed location while the United States seeks to have it repatriated.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Also thanks to The Associated Press we know the dino's name, Ty. The name was bequeathed by Eric Prokopi, an amateur paleontologist from Florida who imported the dinosaur and looks like Fred Armisen sans glasses. He told the AP he's done nothing wrong. He'll have to convince the feds, too. ICE Director John Morton said in the press release it was alleged "criminal smugglers" and notes the agency's persistence in tracking down smugglers. I've left Prokopi a message, but nothing yet.