On the trail of the dinosaur rustlers (Guardian)
Fossils are priceless. I mean that in both senses: they are invaluable clues about vanished lives and their worth should never be measured in dollars. But Eric Prokopi made quite a bit of money dealing fossils and, as it turns out, brazenly smuggling them. He pleaded guilty in December 2012 to conspiracy, making false statements to customs officials, illegally importing fossils into the United States and fraudulent transfer of dinosaur bones. He is due to be sentenced in April and faces up to 17 years in prison. Prokopi's string of offences was finally exposed because of a dinosaur that was almost sold for $1m. His story is one of the most egregious cases of dinosaur rustling in recent years and it shows just how corrupt and harmful to science the fossil market can be.

The ugly tale began when Texas-based Heritage Auctions put out a catalogue for an event in New York City on 20 May last year. The lots included an ankylosaur skull, a troodontid skeleton and the hyped star of the sale, a "75% complete" Tarbosaurus bataar skeleton. This tyrannosaur, which roamed Mongolia about 70 million years ago, was comparable in size and ferocity to its famous cousin Tyrannosaurus rex.
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