CHELSEA — A rare Tyrannosaurus skeleton that was set to be auctioned off last month in Chelsea was seized by the Department of Homeland Security Wednesday after the government of Mongolia said that it was illegally taken from the country, a department spokesman said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were called in to inspect the item when it was shipped from Mongolia to Heritage Auctions at the Center 548 Auction House on West 22nd Street last month, according to spokesman Lou Martinez.
"We went over to look at the items and found that when they were brought into the country there were misrepresented custom documents used to smuggle them into the U.S.," Martinez said.
The agency ran tests on the skeleton with the help of the Mongolian government and confirmed that it did in fact belong to Mongolia.
A report in the New York Observer last month detailed the would-be sale on May 20. At one point, a lawyer for Mongolian President Elbedorj Tsakhia stood up and halted the proceedings.
"I'm sorry, I need to interrupt this auction," the Observer reported the lawyer as saying. "I have a judge on the phone."
The 25-foot-long skeleton is currently in storage in the auction warehouse in Sunnyside, Queens and will be moved to a government facility on Friday until it's returned to Mongolia.