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Dinosaur Fossil Smuggled Into U.S. As Replica Is Actually Real: Feds

A French fossil dealer has admitted to shipping a smuggled dinosaur skull into the United States and trying to sell it for $250,000, federal officials said Friday. U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized the Alioramus skull and vertebrae — dating back about 70 million years ago to the Cretaceous period — on Jan. 11 at the Port of Newark in New Jersey, according to a federal complaint. The French dealer, Geofossiles Inc., initially called the bones a replica and declared a value of 2,500 euros. But during a Homeland Security investigation of the shipment, federal officials said, the dealer admitted the bones were actually authentic and came from Mongolia — where the sale of dinosaur fossils has been outlawed since 1924.

Geofossiles had included several documents in its shipment claiming Mongolia authorized the sale and export of the slender-snouted skull. But those were found to be forged, officials said. “Property of cultural and historic significance that has been stolen from other countries will not find safe harbor in our ports,” Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. Geofossiles couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, and the bones are to be forfeited and released back to Mongolia, according to the complaint.

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— Erik Ortiz