nicolas cage dinosaur skullAP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

Nicolas Cage just can't seem to avoid odd news stories.

The latest ridiculous tale concerning the actor is that a dinosaur skull he bought at an auction may have been stolen from Mongolia and illegally imported, and could be seized by the U.S. government.

The UK's Telegraph reports that Cage purchased the Tyrannosaurus bataar skull for $276,000 in 2007, outbidding fellow actor Leonardo DiCaprio for the 67 million-year-old fossil. The Tyrannosaurus bataar is a close relative of the T-Rex, and native to Mongolia.

And therein lies the problem for Cage. A section of Mongolia's Gobi Desert is chock full of dinosaur fossils, and as such has become a prime target for looters, who will raid the camps of licensed paleontologists there on legitimate (and government-approved) digs, then illegally smuggle the specimens out of the country and into auction houses and fossil shows, where they fetch a pretty penny from prospective collectors.

One infamous bone broker is American Eric Prokopi, who pleaded guilty last year to illegally importing fossils from China and Mongolia, and is currently facing a possible 17-year prison sentence. According to the former director of the natural history department at the auction house where Cage purchased his Tyrannosaurus bataar, the actor's fossil came from a collection brought in by Prokopi.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, currently on a mission to investigate the depth of Prokopi's illegal business, could now seize Cage's fossil as part of their mounting evidence in a larger case against Prokopi.

It's a story that's stranger than fiction -- and maybe one Cage can use as inspiration for a movie one day. We'd pay good money to see the actor weep over the loss of his giant dinosaur skull, then bring the evil smugglers to justice. Hollywood, you can thank us later.

[via The Telegraph]

Editor's Note: The original article incorrectly stated that Prokopi pleaded guilty to stealing fossils from China and Mongolia. The article has been changed to reflect that Prokopi pleaded guilty to illegally importing them.
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