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Tyrannosaurus Can Trod Off to Mongolia

MANHATTAN (CN) - A tyrannosaurus skeleton can return to Mongolia, now that its sole claimant in the United States has dropped off, a federal judge ruled.

The Tyrannosaurus Bataar, also known as a Tarbosaurus, lived around 70 million years ago, in the cretaceous period.

In 1946, a joint Soviet-Mongolian mission discovered the species in the Gobi Desert, and a nearly complete skeleton made its way to Texas for auction two years ago, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

After the Dallas-based Heritage Auctions sold it in May 2000 for roughly $1.05 million, Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia quickly filed suit.

After a Texas judge stopped transfer of the skeleton with a restraining order, federal prosecutors in New York filed a forfeiture action to ship the dinosaur to Mongolia.

Paleontologist Erik Prokipi then intervened to fight off the forfeiture, claiming that the skeleton had been legally obtained and did not come from Mongolia. He said it had been pieced together from different dinosaurs.

Though it came to be known as a "Frankenstein model," prosecutors always have insisted that it came from a single creature.

Prokepi's case had some early traction as U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel required prosecutors to prove the origin of the dinosaur, or dinosaurs. But the paleontologist was forced to abandon his claims after he pleaded guilty to smuggling the bones on Dec. 27, 2012, in a bid to reduce a potential 17-year sentence.

With no other claimants pending, Judge Castel entered a default judgment for the government, filed publicly Thursday.

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