Man Charged After Allegedly Smuggling 1,700 Reptiles, Some Of Which Were Hidden In His ‘Groin Area’

[Shutterstock/ nayef hammouri]

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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Authorities charged a Southern California man Thursday with allegedly smuggling over 1,700 reptiles into the U.S. since 2016, concealing some of the reptiles in his clothes and “groin area.”

Thirty-year-old Jose Manuel Perez was charged with one count of conspiracy, nine counts of smuggling goods into the U.S. and two counts of wildlife trafficking, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). An indictment against Perez was originally filed in February, but authorities added 14 “overt acts in the conspiracy charge, including some accusing Jose Perez of crossing into the U.S. from Mexico by car at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on February 25 with approximately 60 reptiles – including dozens of lizards and four snakes.”

Perez allegedly concealed those reptiles under his clothing and in the “groin area.” He allegedly did not inform customs officials that he had anything to declare but later said “the animals were his pets,” according to the DOJ, which cited the indictment.

Among the animals he is accused of smuggling are Yucatan box turtles, Mexican box turtles, baby crocodiles and Mexican beaded lizards, according to the DOJ. (RELATED: El Paso Man Sentenced To 20 Months For Smuggling Foreign Turtle, Other Reptiles)

If convicted of all charges, Perez could face a statutory maximum of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge and a statutory maximum of 20 years for each count of smuggling, as well as up to five years for each wildlife trafficking count, according to the DOJ.

Perez is set to be arraigned Monday in Los Angeles.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Director of Field Operations in San Diego, Sidney Aki, said when Perez was apprehended that “smugglers will try every possible way to try and get their product, or in this case live reptiles, across the border,” CBS News reported.