Actor Nicolas Cage Agrees To Return Stolen Skull Of Dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Bataar To Mongolia

This time there will be no heart stopping chase scenes in the hero's quest to return stolen treasure.

Instead, actor Nicolas Cage will meekly hand over a 67 million-year-old dinosaur skull that was stolen from Mongolia's Gobi desert by a convicted felon who was nabbed by the feds.

Cage's spokesman Alex Schack confirmed in an email Tuesday the actor will give up the skull of the Tyrannosaurus bataar that he bought at auction in 2007 for $276,000 — outbidding Leonardo DiCaprio.

The skull purchase was part of a larger spending spree that left Cage broke and selling his comic book collection to pay tax liens.

Schack said Cage was first contacted by U.S. authorities in July 2014 when the Department of Homeland Security informed him the skull might have been stolen.

Federal authorities will return the skull to the Mongolian government.

The process of making the transfer started last week when Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed a civil forfeiture complaint against the skull itself.

Court papers did not name Cage as the owner but said the skull had been purchased in March 2007 at auction by an anonymous person living in California.

Cage's purchase of a Tyrannosaurus skull has been widely known for years.

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Cage is not accused of wrongdoing, and authorities said he voluntarily agreed to turn over the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar (skeleton pictured) after learning of the circumstances.

(© Handout . / Reuters/REUTERS)

Cage bought the skull from a Beverly Hills gallery, I.M. Chait, which also sold fossils smuggled into the U.S. by Florida-based paleontologist Eric Prokopi, who Bharara called a "one man black market in prehistoric fossils."

Prokopi pleaded guilty to illegally importing dinosaur skeletons and was sentenced last year to three months in prison. His deal required him to help prosecutors recover 17 fossils he had stolen from the desert.

The skull was part of three different Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons that Prokopi admitting stealing. The Tyrannosaurus bataar was a predator smaller than the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They both roamed Mongolia and China more than 70 million years ago.

Neither Chait nor Cage were accused of any wrongdoing.

Schack said Cage — who got a certificate of authenticity when he bought the skull — immediately agreed to turn it over when he was notified it was stolen.

There has been speculation ever since Prokopi was arrested in 2012 that Cage's skull was part of Prokopi's treasure trove of stolen fossils.

Since 2012, Bharara's office has recovered more than a dozen Mongolian fossils, including three full Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons.

"Each of these fossils represents a culturally and scientifically important artifact looted from its rightful owner," Bharara said in a statement last week.

Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nicolas-cage-agrees-return-stolen-dinosaur-skull-article-1.2473563

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Actor Nicolas Cage Agrees To Return Stolen Skull Of Dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Bataar To Mongolia