Fossil for which the actor paid $276,000 caught up in wide-ranging activities of paleontologist convicted of smuggling dinosaur bones
The dinosaur skull bought by actor Nicolas Cage after he outbid fellow A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio could now return to bite him where it hurts, after it is apparently part of a criminal inquiry into illegally imported fossil remains, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Cage paid $276,000 for a Tyrannosaurus bataar skull in July 2007, which the Sunday Telegraph claimed saw him locked in an “intense” auction battle with DICaprio. Now the paper has followed up their story by saying they have discovered the skull was provided to auctioneers IM Chait by Eric Prokopi, a “commercial paleontologist” who recently pleaded guilty to conspiring to import illegally obtained fossils from Mongolia.
After a complete example of Tyrannosaurus bataar was returned to Mongolian authorities earlier this year after it had been put up for auction, attention has now turned to other items from Prokopi’s stock.
David Herskowitz, director of IM Chait’s natural history department at the time of the sale, told the Telegraph: “Nicolas Cage’s specimen came from Prokopi”, and the US’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division (ICE), responsible for investigating smuggling, is now believed to be assessing if other Prokopi-supplied items are suspect.