Two men tried to smuggle a Bengal tiger cub into the U.S. from Mexico this week, claiming it was just a house cat — but they were nabbed by border officers who spotted the animal and realized the scam.
Luis Eudoro Valencia was driving a 2017 Chevrolet Camaro with no license plates when Customs and Border Protection inspectors at the Otay Mesa port of entry flagged his car, spotting a problem with the vehicle identification number early Wednesday morning.
Looking in the car, the inspector saw an animal laying on the floor, beneath the passenger’s legs.
“The inspector asked if the animal was a tiger. The passenger advised that it was not a tiger but just a cat,” a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent said in court documents.
But the inspector looked at paperwork that showed it was, in fact, a Bengal tiger, shipped to Mexico on Tuesday.
Under questioning later Mr. Valencia, the driver, admitted he had arranged the sale and tried to bring the tiger back. Inspectors even found photos on the man’s phone of a specially built car compartment designed to conceal and smuggle wildlife.
“CBP officers are often faced with unusual situations,” said Pete Flores, director of field operations for CBP in San Diego. “The CBP officers at the Otay Mesa port of entry met the challenge head on and assisted in preserving the life of this endangered species.”
Mr. Valencia is an American citizen.
The Fish and Wildlife agent said the market value of a Bengal tiger cub is about $1,500.
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