A Florida man has admitted to participating in a trafficking scheme in which live water monitor lizards were hidden inside electronic equipment and smuggled from the Philippines to the United States.
Federal court records show that Tampa resident Akbar Akram pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of wildlife trafficking.
According to the Justice Department, the 44-year-old man said he imported more than 20 live lizards back in 2016. He was able to avoid customs authorities by placing the reptiles in socks which were then sealed with tape, placed in electronic equipment, and subsequently shipped using a false label.
The “equipment” was then sent through commercial carriers to Akram’s associate in Massachusetts, where Akram sold some of the lizards to customers there, as well as in Colorado and Connecticut.
There are approximately 70 monitor lizard species, recognizable by their elongated necks and heavy bodies, in addition to their long-forked tongues, strong claws, and long tails.
Water monitor lizards originate in South and Southeastern Asia.