Border officials arrested an Oxnard man at the San Ysidro Port of Entry last week after finding 59 live snakes and lizards hidden in his clothing.
According to authorities, 30-year-old Jose Manuel Perez, allegedly explained that the reptiles were his “pet lizards”.
Herpetologists at the San Diego Zoo identified the live specimens that were contained in bags which included three dwarf boas, a Uribe’s false cat-eyed snake, a Pacific Coast parrot snake, and four conehead lizards.
Perez had been under investigation for several months.
Before his arrest, Perez had been indicted alongside his sister by a Los Angeles federal grand jury.
According to the indictment, Perez is accused of a wildlife trafficking conspiracy that smuggled reptiles through the U.S.-Mexico border without legal permits. Many of the animals are listed as protected species, who were shipped from El Paso to Perez.
Investigators with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services say Perez sold the reptiles on Facebook under a pseudonym, “Julio Rodriguez”. Investigators say that Perez used a specialty company, Reptiles Express, to make labels and shop the live animals to buyers through FedEx to make the transactions look legitimate.
According to the affidavit, the company shipped 475 packages from October 2018 to March 2021.
The indictment accuses the 30-year-old man of importing 30 turtles from Hong Kong, and exporting other animals to buyers in other countries. Perez was accused of being involved in a ring that imported roughly 1,700 animals, including turtles, turtles, monitor lizards, and baby crocodiles, at a market value of more than $739,000.