An 18-year-old will spend six months behind bars for smuggling a Bengal tiger cub across the Mexican border into California, according to multiple reports.
Luis Valencia was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at the San Ysidro Port of Entry last August. Federal investigators allege the stop was initiated because Valencia’s vehicle had no license plates.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, customs agents spotted a 6-week-old Bengal tiger cub on the passenger-side floor of the car.
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Tigers are endangered. One must have proper permits to import the animals.
The recovered cub was named Moka and now lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, reports the Sacramento Bee.
According to both papers, Valencia’s attorney argued in a San Diego courtroom Tuesday that his client wanted to keep the cub as a pet.
But the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports that prosecutors alleged Valencia’s cellphone records indicate he was operating a wildlife smuggling operation.
In text messages, he bragged about getting thousands for monkeys, jaguars and lions, according to the Tribune.
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Valencia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally import tigers and was sentenced to six months in prison .
After Moka was seized, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., shipped an orphan Sumatran tiger cub, Rakan, to San Diego to be his companion.