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A man with 52 snakes and lizards hidden in his clothing was arrested last month as he tried to enter the U.S. from Mexico at a California point of entry, authorities said Tuesday.
The 30-year-old U.S. citizen was driving a 2018 GMC truck when he stopped at the San Ysidro border crossing and was ordered out for further inspection, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a news release.
Following a search, CBP officers found 43 horned lizards and nine snakes that were tied up in bags and concealed in the man’s “jacket, pants pockets, and groin area,” the release stated.
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“Smugglers will try every possible way to try and get their product, or in this case live reptiles, across the border,” said Sidney Aki, CBP Director of Field Operations in San Diego. “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 unidentified driver was arrested for attempting to smuggle the live reptiles. He was turned over to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security investigators (HSI), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for further processing.
The vehicle and the live reptiles were seized.
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The horned lizards and snakes were placed in a secure and safe area, and they will remain in quarantine because some species were endangered, according to the release.
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“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,” said Chad Plantz, special agent in charge of HSI San Diego. “HSI will continue to aggressively investigate individuals who are involved in the unlawful smuggling and trafficking of endangered wildlife for their own financial gain.”