Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fossil Smuggler Sentenced

Microraptor fossil recovered by ICE.
Fossil smuggling has been an area of law enforcement success for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The investigative arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rarely generates heritage trafficking cases that lead to prosecutions. But court cases against Jun Yang, Eric Prokopi and John Richard Rolater have been noteworthy exceptions.

HSI's latest achievement is a plea deal concluded by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Wyoming with Charles Magovern of Boulder, Colorado, who was convicted of fossil smuggling.

Following the terms of the agreement, a federal district court last week sentenced Magovern to probation for illegally importing dinosaur specimens into the United States from China and Mongolia.

The felony information filed by Assistant United States Attorney Stuart Healy, III charged Magovern with willfully and knowingly importing paleontological material "by means of false statements and false papers, to wit, customs import declarations ... were false and fraudulent in that they did reflect as the purchase price of said merchandise a value which was less than the purchase price of said merchandise." Magovern, along with "fossil retailer" John Richard Rolater and another conspirator, "did knowingly aid and abet each other in the commission of this offense," the information further charged. The violations constituted offenses against 18 USC §§ 542 and 2.

ICE reported that the illegal imports were concealed "within legitimate cargo."

According to a press release issued by the agency, the smuggled objects included fossils dating as far back as 151 million years. They consisted of:
Anchiornis fossil recovered by ICE.
Part of the sentence included Magovern's agreement to forfeit "fossils already provided by the defendant" to ICE.

Magovern appears to have cooperated with authorities given his waiver of grand jury indictment, the quickness between the filing of the criminal complaint in July to the time of sentencing, and the actual terms of the sentence.

Photo credits: ICE

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