Gainesville man pleads guilty in $1M dinosaur dispute
NEW YORK — A Florida man has pleaded guilty in New York to smuggling dinosaur fossils into the United States, admitting that he lied to U.S. customs authorities. Eric Prokopi of Gainesville entered his plea today in federal court in Manhattan. The plea deal requires the 38-year-old fossils dealer to give up claims to a 70 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton the government seized earlier this year. He also must give up claims to two other Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons, three more dinosaur skeletons and various unassembled dinosaur pieces. In return for his cooperation, prosecutors say they will recommend leniency. The charges carry a potential penalty of up to 17 years in prison.Prokopi pleaded guilty to conspiracy, the fraudulent transfer of dinosaur bones and making false statements to customs authorities.