Published June 22, 2012
NEW YORK – The U.S. government has seized a dinosaur skeleton in New York City that it says was unjustly taken from Mongolia.
The crates holding the Tyrannosaurus bataar fossil were held at a Queens storage facility. The seizure was carried out Friday.
A Florida man, Eric Prokopi, says he legitimately obtained the specimen he refers to as "Ty."
Prokopi says he put it together at great expense before it was sold at auction for more than $1 million.
The sale is contingent on the outcome of litigation. The government sued earlier this week to seize the dinosaur for a return to Mongolia.
The head paleontologist with New York's American Museum of Natural History, Mark Norell, said Friday that the fossil should be returned quickly to Mongolia.
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Luis Martinez said the dinosaur's remains will be taken in boxes to a government warehouse, where they will be protected.
"We do not release the name or address of the storage site because we keep other priceless antiquities at this location," he said.
Government filings from Monday said that it was being housed at a Cadogan Tate Fine Art property in Queens.
The 8-foot-tall, 24-foot-long skeleton was described in The Heritage Auctions' May 20 Natural History Auction Catalog as being "a stupendous, museum-quality specimen of one of the most emblematic dinosaurs ever to have stalked this Earth."
The government said in court papers that the Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton was moved in March 2010 from Great Britain to Gainesville, Fla., with erroneous claims that it had originated in Great Britain and was worth only $15,000.
Federal authorities say five experts viewed the remains on June 5, agreeing unanimously that the skeleton was a Tyrannosaurus bataar and almost certainly originated in the Nemegt Basin in Mongolia.
It was believed to have been unearthed in the last 17 years.