Man pleads responsible to smuggling reptiles in his pants whereas crossing U.S.-Mexico border

At a border crossing between america and Mexico, border officers mentioned they discovered 60 reptiles in an Oxnard man’s pockets in February. He claimed they have been his pets.

Six months later, that man, Jose Manuel Perez, pleaded responsible to smuggling greater than 1,700 wild animals into the U.S. over a six-year interval, based on federal prosecutors. The 30-year-old pleaded responsible to 2 counts of smuggling items into the U.S. and one depend of wildlife trafficking.

He faces a most of 20 years in federal jail for every smuggling depend and as much as 5 years for wildlife trafficking, based on prosecutors.

Perez, who additionally glided by the alias Julio Rodriguez, used social media to rearrange his smuggling operation between January 2016 via February 2022, which targeted totally on smuggling reptiles into the U.S. from Mexico and Hong Kong, based on the U.S. lawyer’s workplace in Los Angeles. These reptiles included child crocodiles, Yucatan field turtles, Mexican bearded lizards and plenty of extra animals, prosecutors mentioned.

Perez didn’t declare the animals to U.S. customs officers or receive any of the required permits required beneath the worldwide treaty often known as the Conference on the Worldwide Commerce of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), based on prosecutors.

As an alternative, Perez boasted on Fb about his journeys to Mexico, the place he gathered reptiles and posted images and movies to potential patrons, based on prosecutors. He additionally used a number of accomplices as a part of his operation, who have been paid a “crossing fee” each time they smuggled the animals throughout the border, prosecutors mentioned. He additionally used his sister’s PayPal account and had the animals shipped to his house beneath his mom’s identify, but it surely’s unclear if his mom was concerned within the operation, based mostly on courtroom paperwork.

From February 2021 via February 2022, Perez crossed the San Ysidro Port of Entry roughly 36 occasions after he rented a house in Tijuana. On Feb. 25, Perez advised border officers he had nothing to declare, however was directed to a second screening space, the place he was advised that they might carry out a bodily search, based on prosecutors.

He advised customs officers that he had his pets in his pockets and that was how he transported them to and from his house.

Officers discovered 60 reptiles hidden in Perez’s jacket pockets, pants pockets, groin space and pant legs, prosecutors mentioned. From the batch, three of the animals died.

Perez was arrested on Feb. 25, and on Might 16, he was launched on bond, however lower than a month later he eliminated his monitoring ankle bracelet and fled to Tijuana. On June 16, he was arrested once more in Mexico and returned to the U.S. He stays in custody and is scheduled to be sentenced by a federal decide in December.

Through the smuggling operation, prosecutors mentioned all of the animals had a complete market worth of greater than $739,000. His sister, Stephany Perez, 26, is schedule to go on trial early subsequent yr for her alleged involvement within the smuggling operation.