An 18-year-old man from Perris, California was caught allegedly attempting to smuggle a baby Bengal tiger over the US-Mexico border Wednesday morning, transporting the animal in the back of his 2017 Chevrolet Camaro. The man tried to cross back into the US at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry at around 1:30am, US Customs and Border Protection says, and told an officer he had nothing to declare.
He might have been waved through were it not for an issue with the Camaro’s VIN; because of the discrepancy, the car was made to pull off at a secondary inspection area, which is when CBP spotted the animal lying near the feet of a 21-year-old passenger. The tiger cub was taken and placed in a carrier, to be transferred to the San Diego Safari Park, while the driver – identified as one Luis Eudoro Valencia – was arrested. A preliminary hearing for him is scheduled for September 5th.
Tigers of every species are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and for allegedly attempting to smuggle one into the US, Valencia could be facing up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. As for what the discrepancy was involving the 2017 Camaro’s VIN, that has not been reported.