U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in California recently arrested a man at the U.S.–Mexico border after discovering that he was attempting to smuggle 52 reptiles into the U.S. in and under his clothes.
Border agents ordered the 30-year-old U.S. citizen, who was driving a 2018 GMC truck, to stop for further inspection at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego on February 25.
During a personal search of the driver, officers discovered that the man was carrying several bags of live animals concealed in his pants, pockets and groin area.
The officers removed a total of 52 reptiles, including 43 horned lizards and nine snakes, according to a CBP press release.
“Smugglers will try every possible way to try and get their product, or in this case live reptiles, across the border,” CBP Director of Field Operations Sidney Aki said. “In this occasion, the smuggler attempted to deceive CBP officers in order to bring these animals into the U.S., without taking care for the health and safety of the animals.”
The man’s truck and the reptiles were seized by officers. The animals were then transported to a safe place.
The smuggler was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). He was later booked into the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Officers say that some of the animals will remain in quarantine because they belong to an endangered species.
Chad Plantz, a special agent in charge of HSI San Diego, said the seizure is part of an increased effort by several federal law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal smuggling.
“This seizure is the direct result of a coordinated investigative effort by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Customs and Border Protection,” Plantz said. “HSI will continue to aggressively investigate individuals who are involved in the unlawful smuggling and trafficking of endangered wildlife for their own financial gain.”