From: Associated Press
Published September 22, 2007 08:39 AM

SoCal Man Charged With Smuggling Iguanas

A man accused of stealing three endangered iguanas from a nature preserve in Fiji and smuggling them into the United States in his prosthetic leg has been indicted.

Jereme James, 33, of Long Beach, faces a single count of smuggling, according to a federal indictment returned Friday in Los Angeles. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Prosecutors say James stole the Fiji Island banded iguanas while visiting the South Pacific island in September 2002. He then brought the reptiles to the U.S. by hiding them in a special compartment he had constructed in his prosthetic leg, prosecutors said.

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James will be summoned to appear for his arraignment next month.

James, who was not taken into custody, could not be located for comment. Authorities believe he had not yet retained a lawyer, and a call to a J. James in Long Beach was not immediately returned.

James came under scrutiny several years ago when someone told U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials that he had several of the neon green iguanas, which are protected under an international treaty regulating trade in endangered species.

During an undercover probe, James told investigators he sold three of the iguanas for $32,000, prosecutors said.

When a search warrant was served at his house on April 26, Fish and Wildlife agents seized four iguanas. Authorities suspect James may have bred the creatures to sell them.

The seized iguanas will end up in a breeding program in the United States, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph O. Johns said.

 

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