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LOS ANGELES – A man from Oxnard, California pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges of smuggling more than 1,700 wild animals into the United States, officials say.

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In a news release, the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District of California said that Jose Manuel Perez, 30, also known as Julio Rodriguez, had pleaded guilty to two counts of smuggling goods into the U.S. and one count of wildlife trafficking.

Per a plea agreement, Perez and his accomplices from January 2016 to February 2022, arranged to smuggle wild animals into the country by using social media, according to the DOJ.

According to the Associated Press, the wild animals were smuggled from Mexico and Hong Kong.

The animals included Yucatan box turtles, Mexican box turtles, baby crocodiles and Mexican bearded dragons, the DOJ said.

The smuggled animals were imported into the United States from Mexico and Hong Kong without declaring them to U.S. customs officials or obtaining permits required by an international treaty known as the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” said the DOJ in a news release.

Perez had allegedly hired other people to take the animals across the Mexico and U.S. border by car after they were flown from Hong Kong multiple times and even made the trip himself dozens of times, authorities said per KTLA.

According to the DOJ, on February 25, 2022, Perez was arrested attempting to bring 60 reptiles hidden in bags in his clothes into the U.S. from Mexico. Three of the reptiles died during the attempt.

On May 16, Perez was “ordered released bond.” On June 4, the day before his court hearing that he requested, Perez allegedly removed his ankle bracelet and fled to Tijuana, according to the DOJ. He was found and arrested on June 16 in Mexico. He was returned to the U.S. and has been in custody since.

Authorities estimated that the wild animals Perez smuggled were valued at over $739,000. Perez is expected to be sentenced on December 1 and could face 20 years in federal prison for each smuggling count and up to five years for the wildlife trafficking count, according to the AP.