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Federal prosecutors: Skull of T-rex relative smuggled into US, falsely described as replica

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NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors say a 65-million-year-old dinosaur skull was smuggled into the U.S. by a French company that tried pass the fossil off as a cheap replica.

Prosecutors say the skull of the Alioramus (al-ee-oh-RAY'-muhs) dinosaur arrived in New York in January with paperwork saying it was a cast worth about $3,400.

PHOTO: This photo provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014, shows a fossil of a 65-million-year-old dinosaur. The skull was smuggled into the U.S. by a French company that tried pass the fossil off as a cheap replica. Federal prosecutors say the skull must be forfeited. It will likely be returned to Mongolia, where national law prohibits the sale of such artifacts outside the country. (AP Photo/U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York)
This photo provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014, shows a fossil of a 65-million-year-old dinosaur. The skull was smuggled into the U.S. by a French company that tried pass the fossil off as a cheap replica. Federal prosecutors say the skull must be forfeited. It will likely be returned to Mongolia, where national law prohibits the sale of such artifacts outside the country. (AP Photo/U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York)

But U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials and Homeland Security investigators say the company later admitted it was a genuine fossil from Mongolia worth at least $250,000.

The dinosaur is a relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Federal prosecutors say the skull must be forfeited. It will likely be returned to Mongolia, where national law prohibits the sale of such artifacts outside the country.

The company, Geofossiles, on Friday denied the fossil was smuggled.

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