Would you put an assortment of reptiles – lizards, snakes, and other scaly and slithery outdoors things in your pants at an international border? Well, why not? Jose Manuel Perez, from California, was coming into the United States from the San Ysidro Port of Entry. And, he wasn’t alone. The 30-year-old had some friends along for the ride, about 1,700 of them in total.
Yes, the wildlife smuggler even had them in his pants! Perez was found out and has since pled guilty to charges relating to the incident. Just this past Wednesday, Perez was convicted in a federal court with two counts of smuggling goods and one count of wildlife trafficking. This is not a light punishment, either.
Perez could potentially face up to 45 years in prison. He is set to be sentenced on December 1. However, it begs the question of why one would think they could get through a border crossing with so many animals with them, especially when you have around 60 snakes and other critters hidden in your pants.
The situation sounds like something out of either a hilarious movie or a really bad one, I’m not quite sure. There were bearded dragons, snakes, and lizards of just about every kind you can imagine. Some of the animals were imported from Mexico and Hong Kong and were bound for the United States without being declared to customs. A big no-no in case you weren’t aware.
After he was inspected at the port of entry, it was pretty much done at that point. What makes the story wilder is just how he was able to get all of these reptiles. It was no accident, that’s for sure.
Reptile Smuggler Had Help
So, how exactly does one get a hold of all of these reptiles and start heading for the U.S. border? Well, you have to have some help, you see. Perez had put together an entire plan beforehand. They met up at the Ciudad Juarez International Airport in Mexico. From there, they took the animals by car.
After that, the group would then send the reptiles over to Perez’s home in Ventura County. That was the spot where they sold to all over the United States with rare and sometimes endangered animals. While the plan was set up that way, it didn’t go through this time. So, it seems that at least one group is done smuggling creatures illegally.
When it was all said and done, between February 2021 and February 2022, Perez was able to make 36 border crossings. That 37th time did not go so well. In the end, it doesn’t pay to do things like this. Eventually, you will be caught. Best to just go to the local pet shop and get what you want.