Feds: Man smuggled 1,700 reptiles from Mexico and Hong Kong

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Southern California man is accused of smuggling more than 1,700 reptiles — including baby crocodiles and Mexican beaded lizards — into the United States since 2016, authorities said Thursday.

Jose Manuel Perez, also known as “Julio Rodriguez”, was arrested on February 25 at the San Ysidro border crossing with Mexico.

Border Patrol agents found about 60 lizards and snakes tied in small bags, “which were concealed in the man’s jacket, trouser pockets and groin area”, authorities said. last month. Perez allegedly told officers the animals were his pets.

Perez, 30, of Oxnard, has been in federal custody since then and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles announced additional charges Thursday on a superseding indictment that also includes Perez’s sister as a defendant.

Perez is to be arraigned in Los Angeles on Monday. His federal attorney in San Diego declined to comment Thursday. Some of the smuggled reptiles were protected and endangered species, authorities said.

As of January 2016, Perez and his sister, along with others, are accused of using social media to buy and sell wild animals in the United States. Animals, including Yucatan and Mexican box turtles, were reportedly imported from Mexico and Hong Kong without permits.

The reptiles were first taken to Perez’s home in Missouri, but were later shipped to Oxnard when he moved to California, authorities said. His sister helped him with the smuggling, prosecutors say, particularly during the time Perez was incarcerated in the United States.

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