NEW YORK, NY - he dinosaur smuggler has pleaded guilty and now faces 17 years in prison.
Florida native Erik Prokopi illegally bought and sold whole and partial dinosaur skeletons between 2010 and 2012, as part of what he described as a "commercial paleontology" business, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The fossils included three Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons, which are believed to have roamed the earth 70 million years ago, a Saurolophus skeleton and an Oviraptor skeleton.
Prokopi, 38, also faces fines totaling $750,000.
The attorney's office said Prokopi bought fossils from foreign countries and unlawfully transported them back to the U.S. The dinosaur remains slipped through customs, because Prokopi is believed to have misrepresented the shipments on customs forms.
The offenses violate laws of the United States and Mongolia, where it is a crime to take dinosaur fossils out of the country.
As part of his plea agreement, Prokopi will forfeit the remains, which will be returned to the country of origin.
"Black marketeers like Prokopi, who illegally export and sell these wonders, steal a slice of ... history," said Preet Bharara, Manhattan U.S. Attorney. "Fossils and ancient skeletal remains are part of the fabric of a country's natural history and cultural heritage."
Prokopi is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25, 2013.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Click on the region names in the map below to see news from that region.
RIGHT NOW: Top Stories
Another round of Wind Advisories and Red Flag Warnings in place across Northern Arizona Thursday. Find out how strong winds will blow and when they'll back off.
Jodi Arias’ claims that she killed Travis Alexander in self-defense have set actual domestic violence victims back ten years, according to one abuse survivor.
Arizona kids and adults are finding unique ways to buy and sell drugs using the “deep web,” but drug-free advocates say there is an easy way to reduce the chances a child will ever start using illegal substances
One mom says kindergartners from South Phoenix Prep & Arts Academy are being left alone at their bus stops, earlier than scheduled, when no parents are there to pick them up.
ABC15 was invited inside the home to see the damage caused by Phoenix police officers during a hostage rescue.
Scottsdale police say they have identified and arrested a man suspected of trying to kidnap a woman who was out jogging Tuesday night.