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California man charged with smuggling hundreds of reptiles from Mexico, Hong Kong

A California man has been charged with smuggling more than a thousand reptiles, some endangered, into the United States.

30-year-old Jose Manuel Perez, of Oxnard, also known as “Julio Rodriguez,” was charged with one count of conspiracy, nine counts of smuggling goods into the United States and two counts of wildlife trafficking, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

Perez was also allegedly attempted to cross the US-Mexico border in February, with approximately 60 reptiles hidden in his clothes, authorities said.

Authorities said Perez first denied he had anything to declare at the border, then said the animals were his pets.

In total, Perez illegally imported more than 1,700 animals with a total value “exceeding $739,000”, according to the indictment, which was reviewed by CNN.

Perez is expected to be arraigned March 28 in United States District Court in Los Angeles, according to the Department of Justice. He could face up to 20 years in prison for each smuggling count and five years in prison for each wildlife trafficking count.