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Probation in skull smuggling case

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  A Texas man has been sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to smuggling two endangered orangutan skulls from Indonesia into the country.

Graham Scott Criglow, 39, of Anderson, was sentenced Sept. 7, 2016, in a U.S. District Court for Southern Texas in connection with an intercepted package that contained pongo orangutan skulls and a search of his home that yielded human skulls, according to the Department of Justice.

Orangutans are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Criglow is a reptile breeder and owner of Strange Cargo Exotics, an Internet-based wildlife business that dabbles in the trade of poisonous snakes.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice: 

In April 2016, FWS inspectors at the San Francisco International Airport examined a parcel from Indonesia addressed to Criglow. The parcel lacked an Indonesian customs declaration and was screened using an x-ray machine. The inspectors determined the parcel contained two primate skulls. A morphology examination determined the wildlife was two orangutan skulls. 

In May 2016, agents conducted a controlled delivery of the skulls at Criglow’s residence and executed a search warrant, at which time agents located several other animal skulls and bones. Authorities also located human remains including approximately 30 human skulls which were found to be legally purchased by Criglow for his personal collection.

Photo: Animal skull

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Skull No. 2. (c) 2016 J.S.Reinitz

 
Another shot in my animal skull photo series. First reader to properly identify this animal skull gets a free book from our prize closet. Submit your answer in the comments section below. Arbiter will be the staff at the nature center holding the specimen.

Photo: Sea turtle

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Sea turtle skull. (c) 2015 J.S. Reinitz

Sea turtle skull. (c) 2015 J.S. Reinitz

I shot this sea turtle skull during one of our trips to the local nature preserve. After a walk through the wooded trails, we take a break at the center, where my daughter gets reacquainted with the live turtles, snakes and salamanders in the terrariums. I avail myself to the still life artifacts.

Jersey bear coverup 

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 A man has pleaded guilty to whacking a New Jersey bear and trying to pass it off as a New York bear. He even went so far as to haul the entrails to stage a New York hunting scene at Sterling State Forest.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On Oct. 5, 2012, Martin Kaszycki, 36, of Ringwood, N.J., killed a 450-pound, male, America black bear from an elevated tree stand, with a bow and arrow, out of hunting season, after setting out bait for the bear within 300 feet of the stand near his place of business in Newfoundland, all in violation of New Jersey state laws. He then drove the bear across state lines to New York, where he falsely told a New York weigh station employee that he had killed the bear in New York’s Sterling State Forest, causing the employee to record the false information on a New York state Bear Data Form.

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From the cradle boarding to the grave robbing

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 I’m not really sure which is worse, digging up the bones or buying the bones. An Ohio man last week pleaded guilty to purchasing First Nation remains that had been unearthed from a rock shelter, shallow caves dug into the sides of cliffs. A witness described the excavation as large enough to hold a Volkswagen.

Also of interest in the case was the use of cradle boarding marks on the remains to help identify the origin, possibly referring to artificial deformations of the skull caused by use of this child carrier.

Here’s the FBI release:

Man pleads to purchasing Native American remains
Aug. 5, 2015

COLUMBUS, OH—Mark M. Beatty, 56, of Wellston, Ohio, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to violating the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act by purchasing human remains of Native Americans. The case is the first criminal enforcement of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in the Southern District of Ohio.

According to court documents, individuals were observed digging in a rock shelter in Salt Creek Valley in Jackson County, Ohio. When they were approached, they ran off into the woods and left behind shovels, dirt sifters, buckets and trash. Investigators confirmed that at least two individuals were digging on the property and had dug up human remains. Beatty admitted to purchasing those remains.

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Forfeiture ordered in dino fossil smuggling case

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In September, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement stopped a Mongolian dinosaur from sneaking into the country from France. This week, a federal judge sided with the government in its seizure, which means it can be returned to Mongolia.

Here’s the update from ICE:

HSI seizes Mongolian dinosaur fossil
12/02/2014

NEW YORK — A decree of forfeiture was issued Tuesday in federal court forfeiting a fossilized skull and vertebrae of an Alioramus dinosaur after it was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Upon its Sept. 4 arrival in the United States from France, the Dinosaur Skull was seized by CBP. Federal authorities then filed a civil action to forfeit the dinosaur skull, alleging that it was stolen Mongolian property that was smuggled into the United States using false declarations. The allegations in the United States’ complaint went uncontested and the court ordered the forfeiture of the dinosaur skull.

The Alioramus was a dinosaur that lived in the late Cretaceous period, approximately 65 to 70 million years ago. It is related to the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Tarbosaurus.

The Dinosaur Skull was falsely described as a French replica when it was shipped to the United States by Geofossiles, Inc., a French fossil dealer. More

Dino smuggling plea after skeleton found in closet

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A Wyoming fossil dealer has pleaded to dinosaur smuggling charges after Customs agents found a skeleton in his closet. Well, not a complete skeleton. Just the skull of a T-Bataar that had been sneaked out of Mongolia. And, technically, it wasn’t his closet. It was rented by the store’s director, but the dealer was the landlord.

The skull had been a centerpiece at Wyoming store until news broke of an earlier T-Bataar smuggling case out of New York. Then it was closet time.

Agents found a collection of other fossils, including another Bataar skull hiding in a crawlspace at the dealer’s home, authorities said.

Here is what Immigration and Customs Enforcement said about the case:

Wyoming fossil retailer pleads guilty to smuggling dinosaur and other fossils into the US

CHEYENNE, Wyo. —A Wyoming fossil retailer pleaded guilty Thursday to an Information charging conspiracy to smuggle dinosaur and other fossilized bones into the United States from China and Mongolia.

This guilty plea was announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming. This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

John Richard Rolater, 69, pleaded guilty to the charge and also agreed to surrender any and all contraband vertebrate fossils he has, which include the following fossils from China: a saber-toothed cat skull, a Feilongus fossil, an Anchiornis Huxleyi fossil and a Darwinopterus fossil.

As part of the plea agreement, Rolater also agreed to pay a $25,000 fine, and to two years of supervised probation. A formal sentencing date has not yet been set.

Rolater owns and operates two “By Nature Gallery” retail stores in Jackson, Wyo., and Beaver Creek, Colo.

This investigation began in June 2012 following a hot-line tip which was forwarded to HSI special agents in Casper, Wyo. The tipster reported that a Tyrannosaurus Bataar fossilized skull being sold by Rolater in his Jackson, Wyo., store was originally from Mongolia. However, immediately after the HSI seizure of a separate Bataar skull was publicized in New York, the Bataar skull displayed in Rolater’s Jackson, Wyo., store was removed. HSI special agents obtained a search warrant and discovered the skull June 22, 2012 hidden in a closet of the rented residence of the store’s director, which was owned by Rolater.

HSI special agents executed another search warrant at Rolater’s Eagle, Colo., residence Aug. 1, 2012. They discovered and seized the following items: a fossilized Gallimimus foot, six computers, two electronic storage devices, a box of business documents from Rolater, and a fossilized juvenile Bataar skull, which was hidden in the crawl space of Rolater’s house.

Both China and Mongolia have extensive cultural patrimony laws that specifically protect prehistoric fossils.

During this investigation, HSI seized the following smuggled fossils, which will ultimately be repatriated back to their country of origin:

Micro-Raptor (4), total value $173,000
Bataar Skull (3) $1,875,000
Dinosaur Eggs (10) $5,075
Bataar lower leg (1) $75,000
Keichosaurus (15) $3,990
Gallimimus foot (1) $18,750
Sinovenator (2) $70,000
Protoceratops (1) $100,000
Anchiormis (1) $30,000
Gallimimus skeleton (1) $100,000

Decorating for the holidays

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Happy Holidays

We decorated the cave Christmas tree the other day, including this newly acquired ornament.

Swamp hike

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The murky depths of a swamp can hold a lot of secrets — ditched stolen cars, lost treasure, enemies. The thick muck, opaque water, diseased insects and noxious odor of decay and rot swirl together in a concoction that keeps all but the most brave or most mad at bay.

So it was with high expectations that we set out to explore a local swamp a few months ago. Not that were were particularly brave — or even mad for that matter. The long-dry summer had taken its toll on the marsh, dried it to the bone and sucked out most of the hazards. It wasn’t a big swamp to begin with, just a section of soggy ground, a pond and a half-submerged forest wedged between a bluff, a bike trail and a highway. Not a destination, barely a waypoint.

With the drought, the north rim was now a thick a field of purple flowers, and most of what had been under water now resembled a desert. Dusty cracks waffled the ground, which had a spongy spring when stepped upon. There was still moisture buried underneath. You could find it if you dug deep enough.

We found a pair of hubcaps early on, and as we moved on, we located a plastic baseball, then a golf ball, then another golf ball. A small mound of debris farther on caught our eye, and we approached, finding three or four cut milk jugs tethered metal 5-pound plate, the kind one loads onto a barbell. My best guess was it had been a fish trap, fish bait or fish habitat — something fishy.

A shallow spot on the dried mud flat still held water, maybe a few inches deep and five feet across. As we neared, the water came alive, rippling as if blown by a gust of wind. It was actually frogs and guppies, which once fanned out over the marsh and now packed densely into what little water remained. Noticing our presence, they began hopping to the far end of the puddle.

Moving past the frog pond and heading deeper into the swamp, we came to what were once islands, now completely approachable by foot. They were little tufts of earth topped with grass and bushes and popping out of the deserted plain. As we looped back on our way out, we cut through the field of flowers that spread across what had been the shoreline. Not far inside, we discovered an animal skull, perhaps once belonging to an opossum. The bone was bleached white, and the jaw was intact. The kids studied it, figuring out where the eyes and other features had been.

At the end of the hike, we climbed out of the swamp’s dusty remains, not finding any great secrets but getting a rare glimpse of what’s at the bottom.

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Skull Appreciation Day

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Cool swag from the folks at Skull A Day.

Happy Skull Appreciation Day — June 4.

We received a special edition button (pictured above with envelope) from Skull-A-Day, the website that spearheaded Skull Appreciation Day.

For more info, go to Skull-A-Day.com.