Within the early morning hours of February 25, U.S. Customs and Border Safety (CBP) apprehended a person making an attempt to cross into San Diego with 43 horned lizards and 9 snakes hid beneath his garments. In a statement, the CBP known as the incident a “vital smuggling try.”
Officers say Jose Manuel Perez, a 30-year-old American citizen, pulled his truck into the San Ysidro Port of Entry round 3 a.m., the place the CBP officer referred Perez and his automobile for extra screening. Upon private examination, “brokers eliminated a complete of 52 luggage of reptiles…hid within the man’s jacket, pants pockets, and groin space.”
Herpetologists on the San Diego zoo later recognized some notable species among the many confiscated animals, together with three dwarf boas, 4 conehead lizards, a Uribe’s false cat-eyed snake, and a Pacific Coast parrot snake. Perez informed the officers the reptiles had been his pets, however an ongoing investigation revealed these animals had been merely the newest in a gentle stream of uncommon Latin American reptiles he has smuggled into the U.S.
In actual fact, the day earlier than his arrest, Perez and his sister had been indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles that alleged the siblings had been part of a long-running wildlife trafficking ring. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “the ring is accused of importing roughly 1,700 animals, together with turtles, monitor lizards, and child crocodiles, at a market worth of greater than $739,000.”
Perez bought the reptiles on Fb beneath the title “Julio Rodriquez.” He incessantly posted adverts on Fb teams that catered to reptile lovers. To make his gross sales look professional, Perez created labels for a faux enterprise known as “Reptiles Categorical” and despatched 475 packages beneath the title from October 2018 to March 2021, in response to the affidavit. Information additionally present that Perez crossed the border into San Diego 36 occasions final yr and would quickly put up adverts for reptiles on social media with new wildlife on the market after every journey. Final month, Perez was prohibited from coming into Tijuana when Mexican officers realized he was touring with 15 turtles, 12 snakes, and eight chameleons in his automobile.
The U.S.-Mexico border is incessantly the location of wildlife smuggling. In San Diego alone, CBP has seized combating cocks, tiger cubs, sea turtle eggs, ivory, and whale bones. The reptiles taken from Perez had been transported to a protected location the place lots of them will stay in quarantine.
“Smugglers will strive each attainable technique to try to get their product, or on this case reside reptiles, throughout the border,” stated Sidney Aki, CBP Director of Subject Operations in San Diego. “On this event, the smuggler tried to deceive CBP officers so as to convey these animals into the US., with out taking look after the well being and security of the animals. CBP enforces a whole lot of legal guidelines on the border for greater than 40 totally different authorities businesses, partially to assist cease smuggling makes an attempt like these which might result in trafficking of presumably endangered species.”