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It’s Off to Prison for Smuggler of Lizards

Gecko/dept. of conservation

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s not the crime of the century.

Nonetheless, it’s prison time for Michael Plank, 42, of Lomita, Calif., who was sentenced Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court to 15 months behind bars for smuggling 15 lizards from Australia into the United States.

Essentially, he got one month in prison for every lizard.

Plank had pleaded guilty to smuggling two Geckos, two Monitor lizards and 11 Skink lizards from Australia in November 2009. He tried to pass through Customs at Los Angeles International Airport with the lizards in his money belts.

Federal law prohibits the importation of wildlife from another country without a permit. The animals must also be declared in the U.S. at the first point of entry.

“This sentence of 15 months in federal prison sends a strong message to both wildlife smugglers and would-be wildlife smugglers that the illegal trafficking in wildlife is a serious crime that will result in significant prison time for those who engage in thisdespicable activity,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement.

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