With law enforcement agencies across the world cracking down on smuggling, contrabandists have devised several foolproof and innovative methods of transporting banned articles. However, it appears that not all smugglers have kept up with the changing times. Serving as an example of the aforementioned statement, a US man was caught attempting to illegally transport 52 reptiles into the country by concealing the animals in his clothes... and his groin region!
The 30-year-old man, a US citizen, was apprehended at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, San Diego, California when he attempted to cross the border and enter the US. 52 reptiles, some of which are as endangered, were found securely bound in small bags and hidden in and under his clothing.
"Smugglers will try every possible way to try and get their product, or in this case live reptiles, across the border. On this occasion, the smuggler attempted to deceive CBP officers in order to bring these animals into the US, without taking care of the health and safety of the animals," said, Sidney Aki, Director of Field Operations, CBP, San Diego, in a statement.
Packets of Reptiles
The bizarre incident occurred on 25 February 2022 at around 3 a.m at the San Ysidro border crossing (largest land border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico). While trying to cross the border and enter the US in a 2018 GMC truck, the driver was stopped by a CBP officer. Following this, he was referred and the vehicle was examined.
However, the CBP officers made an unexpected discovery when the driver was subjected to a personal search. It was learnt that the man had several bags of live animals on person! A total of 52 bags containing multiple species of reptiles were found concealed in his pant pockets, jacket, and his groin area. The animals were identified as nine snakes and 43 horned lizards.
Sneaking in Endangered Species
As a result of his botched attempt to smuggle animals into the US, the driver was arrested and handed over to authorities from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigators (HSI) and Fish and Wildlife Services (F&WS), for further processing. He was later shifted to the Metropolitan Correctional Center and booked.
The CBP officers seized the US citizen's vehicle and the reptiles. According to the official statement, the animals are currently being kept in a safe and secure area. As some of the recovered reptiles are considered endangered, they will be held in quarantine.
"This seizure is the direct result of a coordinated investigative effort by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego, US Fish and Wildlife, and Customs and Border Protection. HSI will continue to aggressively investigate individuals who are involved in the unlawful smuggling and trafficking of endangered wildlife for their own financial gain," affirmed Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge, HIS, San Diego.