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Sssssssnakes, and more! Ventura County man pleads guilty to smuggling wildlife into U.S.

U.S. Department of Justice photo
Prosecutors say these are some of the reptiles seized from a man who was smuggling them into the U.S. from Mexico in his clothing.

Oxnard man potentially facing up to 45 years in federal prison.

A Ventura County man arrested while trying to cross the border with 60 reptiles hidden in his clothing has pled guilty to federal smuggling charges.

Federal prosecutors say the Oxnard man ran a wildlife smuggling operation which brought more than 1700 wild animals into the U.S. illegally.

They say Jose Manuel Perez used social media to set up deals. Investigators say Perez had accomplices to bring animals ranging from Yucatan Box turtles to baby crocodiles into the United States, mostly from Mexico.

The animals would then be taken to his home in Ventura County, where they would be resold to buyers across the United States.

But, the investigators say Perez went to Mexico dozens of times to illegally bring in wildlife himself. That’s what led to his arrest. In February of this year, he was caught trying to cross into the U.S. with 60 reptiles, which were hidden in his clothing in small bags. After being arrested, he fled while out on bond, but was re-arrested in Mexico.

He pled guilty to two felony smuggling counts, and one wildlife trafficking charge. Perez potentially faces up to 45 years in prison when he’s sentenced in December.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.