When Jose Manuel Perez was caught with dozens of reptiles hidden in his clothes, he told border agents in California that they were his pets, federal investigators said.
LOS ANGELES – A California man has big problems with federal services after he allegedly smuggled more than 1,700 reptiles to the United States from Mexico.
Border agents said Jose Manuel Perez was caught last month while trying to infiltrate California with 60 reptiles hidden in his clothes.
According to investigators, dozens of lizards and snakes were hidden in his pockets, legs and groin. They said Perez first denied that he had anything to say and then said the animals were his pets.
But these horrible, creeping faces nearly scratched the surface. Federal investigators say Perez ruled Fr. mass animal smuggling operation for many years.
The 30-year-old Perez is accused of one conspiracy, nine of smuggling goods to the United States and two counts of wildlife trafficking. His sister, 25-year-old Stephanie Perez, is also accused of conspiracy.
The feds say that along with the snakes among 1,700 animals were small crocodiles, Mexican beaded lizards, Yucatan box turtles and Mexican box turtles illegally imported into the U.S. from Mexico and Hong Kong.
According to the indictment, the Perez brothers and sisters and their conspirators used social media to buy and sell wildlife from 2016 to 2022. Defendants allegedly posted photos and videos depicting animals gathering from the wild.
After smuggling to California, they were taken to El Paso, according to the indictment.
If Jose Perez is found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison for each smuggling case, five years for each wildlife trade case and up to five years for conspiracy.