Central Coast man guilty of smuggling more than 1,700 animals

August 25, 2022


A 30-year-old Central Coast man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to smuggling more than 1,700 wild animals – including 60 reptiles found hidden in his clothes – into the United States.

Jose Manuel Perez of Oxnard pleaded guilty to two counts of smuggling goods into the United States and one count of wildlife trafficking. Investigators estimate the value of wildlife smuggled by Perez at more than $739,000.

Beginning in Jan. 2016, Perez and his accomplices used social media to arrange for the smuggling of wildlife – primarily reptiles – into the United States, typically from Mexico and Hong Kong. In violation of endangered species laws,  Perez smuggled Yucatan box turtles, Mexican box turtles, baby crocodiles and Mexican beaded lizards into the United States without obtaining permits.

Perez rented a house in Tijuana and crossed into the United States from Mexico at the San Ysidro Port of Entry approximately 36 times from Feb. 2021 to Feb. 2022. On Feb. 25, Perez was arrested while attempting to enter the United States with 60 reptiles hidden in his clothing in small bags.

On June 5, Perez, who was out on bail, fled to Tijuana, where he was captured and returned to the United States.

Perez faces a statutory maximum sentence of 45 years in federal prison.

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Are the people he sold to under investigation too?

Six years of smuggling? Habitat protection for endangered wildlife is meaningless as long as these smugglers can operate with impunity. I hope he rots in a prison cell with lots of bugs!