Actor Nicolas Cage seen returning stolen dinosaur skull he bought
By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - It appears Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage is the mystery owner who agreed last week to forfeit a rare stolen dinosaur skull to U.S. authorities so it can be returned to the Mongolian government.
The office of Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, filed a civil forfeiture complaint on Wednesday to take possession of the skull, which will be repatriated to Mongolia.
The lawsuit and a press release from Bharara's office did not specifically name Cage as the owner. But the lawsuit described the skull as having been bought at auction from a Beverly Hills gallery, I.M. Chait, in March 2007 for $276,000.
The details match those of Cage's purchase, which made headlines after the Hollywood star encountered financial difficulties in subsequent years.
Authorities would not confirm the identity of the owner, and a lawyer and a publicist for Cage did not respond to requests for comment.
The "National Treasure" actor is not accused of wrongdoing, and authorities said the owner voluntarily agreed to turn over the skull after learning of the circumstances.
Cage outbid fellow movie star Leonardo DiCaprio for the skull, according to prior news reports.
The I.M. Chait gallery had previously purchased and sold an illegally smuggled duck-billed dinosaur skeleton from convicted paleontologist Eric Prokopi, whom Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called a "one-man black market in prehistoric fossils." Continued...