US flag Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Archived Content

In an effort to keep CBP.gov current, the archive contains content from a previous administration or is otherwise outdated.

Ancient Fossils Seized by CBP Officially Returned to China

Release Date: 
May 26, 2010

Priceless prehistoric fossils, declared as "stones" mailed from Hong Kong and interdicted by a sharp-eyed CBP officer in March 2007, today officially returned to the Chinese government in a ceremony at the Embassy of China in Washington, D.C.

Chinese official thanks CBP representative for return of fossils.

Chinese Charge d'Affaires Xie Feng, center, shakes hands with CBP Assistant Commissioner Thomas Winkowski after signing documents to repatriate fossils from China seized in Chicago. Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security John Morton represented ICE.

Representing CBP at the repatriation event, Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations Thomas Winkowski noted that CBP had returned relics to China before and would "continue to stress the importance of identifying priceless artifacts and

CBP Assistant Commissioner Thomas Winkowski chats with members of the media concerning CBP's role in seizing the illegally shipped fossils. Event was held at the Embassy of China in Washington, D.C.

CBP Assistant Commissioner Thomas Winkowski chats with members of the media concerning CBP's role in seizing the illegally shipped fossils. Event was held at the Embassy of China in Washington, D.C.

ensuring that we return them to their rightful owners."

Then-CBP Officer Daniel Nugent (now an ICE agent) discovered the fossils while X-raying packages at the Chicago Foreign Mail Unit. They looked like stones, he said. Suspicious of anyone shipping heavy, ordinary rocks from China, and having seen fossil smuggling before, he opened the packages to discover about 100 "little creature-like things embedded in stone" and wrapped in tissues, he said.

After Nugent contacted ICE, representatives from the two agencies took the stones to the Field Museum in Chicago, which classified the rocks as paleovertebrates approximately 525 million years old. CBP seized the fossils and ICE is continuing its investigation.

At today's ceremony, Chinese officials stated that China and the United States are committed to working more closely on law enforcement, including evidence and information sharing on illegal immigration and transnational crimes.

One of the 525-million-year-old fossils seized by CBP and returned to China.

One of the 525-million-year-old fossils seized by CBP and returned to China.

Assistant Commissioner Winkowski credited the "great demonstration of teamwork" by U.S. federal law enforcement personnel, China and the Field Museum.

Chinese Charge d' Affaires Xie Feng, Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security John Morton and Assistant Commissioner Winkowski signed the repatriation agreement, formally transmitting the artifacts to Chinese hands.

(ICE, CBP Return Pre-historic Fossils to China)

Last modified: 
February 8, 2017