San Diego, CA– U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the San Ysidro port of entry thwarted a significant smuggling attempt after discovering 52 reptiles, tied up in small bags and hidden in and under a man’s clothing as he tried to cross the border into the U.S.
The incident occurred at about 3 a.m., on February 25, when border patrol officers encountered a 30-year-old male U.S. citizen, driving a 2018 GMC truck and arriving at the San Ysidro border crossing.
The officer referred the driver and the vehicle for further inspection. During the examination, a personal search of the driver was conducted and officers found several bags of live animals. The officers removed a total of 52 bags of reptiles, later identified as 43 horned lizards and nine snakes, which were concealed in the man’s jacket, pants pockets, and groin area.
“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 officers in order to bring these animals into the US., without taking care for the health and safety of the animals.”
“This seizure is the direct result of a coordinated investigative effort by Homeland Security Investigations San Diego, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and Customs and Border Protection,” said Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigators 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.”
Officers arrested the driver for the live reptiles smuggling attempt and turned him over to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigators and Fish and Wildlife Services for further processing. The driver was later transported and booked into the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Officers seized the horned lizards, snakes, and vehicle. The live reptiles were placed in a secure and safe area. The live reptiles will remain in quarantine due to some species being identified as endangered.