TAMPA (CBSMiami) — A Florida man turned lizard smuggler pleaded guilty this week in federal court to trafficking live water monitor lizards from the Philippines.
Akbar Akram, of Holiday, Florida, near Tampa, admitted to illegally importing more than 20 live water monitor lizards in 2016, according to the plea documents.
The documents say Akram stuffed the lizards into socks and sealed them with tape, before hiding them inside electronic equipment which was shipped under a false label.
The equipment was transported through commercial carriers to Akram’s associate in Massachusetts.
As part of his plea, Akram admitted that he knew the monitor lizards he received had been taken in violation of Philippine law and that the import violated U.S. law, according to the statement. Akram also admitted he sold some of the lizards to customers in Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Elongated necks, heavy bodies, long-forked tongues, strong claws and long tails characterize approximately 70 monitor lizard species. Water monitor lizards are native to South and Southeastern Asia.
Some species of water monitor lizard are common and abundant in the pet trade, while others are extremely rare and are found only on specific islands. The yellow-headed water monitor, the white-headed water monitor and the marbled water monitor are found in the Philippines.