Fossil retailer pleads guilty to smuggling bones from Mongolia and China

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Dinosaur bones and other fossils smuggled from China and Mongolia will be returned after being surrendered by the retailer who pled guilty to bringing them here.

John Richard Rolater, 69, of Eagle, Colorado, pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to smuggle the fossils, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Carl Rusnok. As part of the agreement, Rolater agreed to pay a $25,000 fine, serve two years of supervised probation and surrender all the fossils he still had.

Rolater owns and operates two "By Nature Gallery" retail stores in Jackson, Wyo., and Beaver Creek, Colo. Rusnok said that the investigation into the fossil dealings began in June 2012 with a tip reporting that one of the fossils being sold by that business was originally from Mongolia. The fossil in question was the skull of a Bataar, a dinosaur similar in shape to the Tyrannosaurus.

"However, immediately after the [Homeland Security Investigations] seizure of a separate Bataar skull was publicized in New York, the Bataar skull displayed in Rolater’s Jackson, Wyo., store was removed," Rusnok wrote.

A search warrant executed later that month resulted in the Mongolian fossil being found in a crawl space of a residence Rolater was renting.

In August of 2012, a second search warrant allowed investigators into Rolater's home in Eagle. Inside they found and seized fossils, computers and business documents.

According to Rusnok, the fossils found during this case will ultimately be returned to their countries of origin:

Fossils from China:

Item                             Estimated Value

Micro-Raptor (4)                     $173,000

Dinosaur Eggs (10)                    $5,075

Keichosaurus (15)                      $3,990

Sinovenator (2)                         $70,000

Anchiormis (1)                          $30,000

Fossils from Mongolia:

Item                             Estimated Value

Bataar Skull (3)                    $1,875,000

Bataar lower leg (1)                  $75,000

Gallimimus foot (1)                   $18,750

Protoceratops (1)                     $100,000

Gallimimus skeleton (1)         $100,000

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