An Oxnard man was charged after allegedly illegally importing more than 1,700 reptiles into the United States, including 60 found hidden in his clothes last month at the country's border with Mexico.
Jose Manuel Perez aka Julio Rodriguez was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of conspiracy, nine counts of smuggling goods into the United States and two counts of wildlife trafficking, the I.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said in a news release. According to KTLA, Perez is expected to be arrained on Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
His 25-year-old sister, is also charged in the indictment with conspiracy and will be directed to appear for an arrainment in the coming weeks.They added indictments which include 14 overt acts in the conspiracy charge, including some accusing Jose Perez of crossing into the U.S. from Mexico by car with approximately 60 reptiles, including dozen of lizards and snakes. After denying the animals, he then claimed that the animals were his pets.
From January 2016 to February 2022, the Perez siblings used social media to buy and negotiate the terms of the sale and delivery of wildlife in the U.S. according to the indictment. They allegedly advertised on social media animals smuggled from Mexico to the U.S. for sale, posting photos and video that depicted the animals being collected from the wild.
The animals – which included Yucatan box turtles, Mexican box turtles, baby crocodiles and Mexican beaded lizards – allegedly were imported into the country from Mexico and Hong Kong without obtaining permits required by an international treaty known as the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
If convicted of all charges, the defendants would face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge. Jose Perez would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each smuggling count and five years in prison for each wildlife trafficking count.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the matter with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations.