Monday, 6 May 2019

Nashua man pleads guilty to smuggling monitor lizards into U.S. in audio speakers – via Herp Digest

By Paul Freely, New Hampshire Union Leader , 4/23/19

A Nashua man pleaded guilty in federal court in Massachusetts Tuesday to smuggling live monitor lizards from the Philippines like the one shown in this file photo into the United States illegally.
Wikimedia Commons photo

Boston — A Nashua man pleaded guilty in federal court in Massachusetts Tuesday to smuggling live monitor lizards from the Philippines into the United States illegally, officials said.

Derrick Semedo, 26, of Nashua pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Boston, before Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Andrew Lelling, United States Attorney for District of Massachusetts.

Semedo pleaded guilty to one count of wildlife trafficking in violation of the Lacey Act.

According to court documents, Semedo admitted to illegally importing more than 20 live water monitor lizards from the Philippines between March and December of 2016, in violation of United States law and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Treaty. According to court paperwork, the lizards were placed in socks, sealed closed with tape, then concealed in the back panels of audio speakers or other electronic equipment to avoid detection by U.S. customs officials.

The equipment was then shipped via commercial carriers to Semedo in Massachusetts. The customs declarations accompanying the shipments identified the content as audio speakers or other electronics, not live lizards.

As part of his plea, Semedo admitted knowing the monitor lizards he received had been taken in violation of Philippine law, and that importing them violated U.S. law. Semedo also admitted that after receiving the monitor lizards, he sold some of them to customers, including customers in Colorado, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

The monitor lizard species — there are approximately 70 — are characterized by elongated necks, heavy bodies, long-forked tongues, strong claws, and long tails. Monitor lizards have a vast geographical range and are native to Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

Water monitor lizards are semi-aquatic monitor lizards found in south and southeastern Asia. According to federal officials, some species of water monitor lizard are common and abundant in the pet trade, while others are extremely rare and found only on specific islands.

Water monitor lizards are often captured illegally and killed for meat, traditional medicine, or for their skins, federal officials said.

“To remove members of endangered species from their natural habitat and illegally sell them in the United States is harmful to the animals, their native habitats, and the new ecosystems they have unwittingly invaded,” said Clark in a statement. “The Department of Justice remains determined to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that these endangered animals are protected.”

“Endangered species are called that for a reason,” said Lelling. “Illegally trafficking a protected species in violation of United States and international law is callous and short-sighted. This office will continue to target those who exploit protected animals and ecosystems for personal gain.”

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