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Ventura County Man Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Reptiles Into U-S From Mexico

Wednesday August 24, 2022

Reptiles Photo 1

(Photos courtesy US Attorney's Office)

     The United States Attorney's Office says a Ventura County man has pleaded guilty to smuggling more than 1,700 endangered reptiles into the country.

     30-year-old Jose Manuel Perez, also known as Julio Rodriguez of Oxnard, pleaded guilty to two counts of smuggling goods into the United States from Mexico and one count of wildlife trafficking.

     Federal prosecutors say 60 reptiles were found hidden in his clothes at the United States-Mexico border.

     The reptiles included dozens of lizards and four snakes concealed inside his jacket pockets, pants pockets, groin area, and pant legs.

     Federal prosecutors say that after denying to customs officials that he had anything to declare, Perez later told them that the animals were his pets.

     They say that from 2016 to 2022, Perez used social media to buy and negotiate the terms of the sale and delivery of wildlife into the country.

     The animals included Yucatan box turtles, Mexican box turtles, baby crocodiles, and Mexican beaded lizards with a value of more than $739,000.

     The U-S Attorney's Office says that while free on bail awaiting his next court appearance in June of this year, Perez removed his ankle bracelet and fled to Tijuana.

     He was recaptured and returned to the United States where he's been in custody ever since.

     Now that he has pleaded guilty and been convicted, Perez is facing "a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each smuggling count and up to five years in federal prison for the wildlife trafficking count" when he is sentenced on December 1st.

     The U-S Attorney's Office says his 26-year-old sister is facing trial in February of next year in connection with what they allege was her role in the case.