Microraptor fossil. Courtesy ICE

Another microraptor is headed back to China after being smuggled out of the country by a Florida operation that allegedly tried to pass it and other artifacts off as rock art returning after touring overseas.
Sounds convoluted? ICE sorts it out in the release below.

ICE returns Dino fossil, artifacts to ChinaDec. 10, 2015

WASHINGTON – A microraptor fossil estimated to be approximately 120 million years old was returned to the government of China Thursday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In addition to the microraptor fossil, ICE also returned jade disks, bronze trays and other items, dating back as far as 1600 BCE to the Chinese government.

The artifacts were recovered by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices in New York, Cleveland and Miami. The fossil was falsely manifested as a “craft rock” and later as a “fossil replica” to conceal the shipment’s true contents.

HSI Cleveland and HSI New York worked jointly to investigate Eric Prokopi, of Florida, who later pleaded guilty to engaging in a scheme to illegally import dinosaur fossils. According to court documents and statements made in Manhattan federal court, Prokopi owned and ran a business out of his Florida home and is a self-described commercial paleontologist. Prokopi was fined, served time in jail and was subject to 15 months supervisory release.

The other repatriated items were seized in connection with an HSI Miami investigation into an art dealer by the name of Francois B. Lorin. According to court documents, invoices accompanying the artifacts indicated the entire contents originated in Florida and were being returned to the United States after having been shipped to Hong Kong for a trade show.

After the items were interdicted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors, Lorin and others created false documents to justify provenance for certain items in the shipment that were prohibited from entering the United States without such provenance. Lorin was sentenced to three years of probation, issued a $50,000 fine and required to forfeit the artifacts.

In accordance with a bilateral agreement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China signed in 2009, both countries work together closely to prevent the illicit trafficking of archaeological objects.

 

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