MAN PLEADS GUILTY AND IS SENTENCED FOR SMUGGLING BALL PYTHONS, AND OTHER REPTILES
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Mark O. Hatfield Jr., Federal Security Director, U.S. Transportation and Security Administration, and Eddie McKissick, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Office of Law Enforcement, Miami Office, announced that Simon Turola Borges, 30, of Brazil, pled guilty today to one count of smuggling pythons and tortoises out of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 544. U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz sentenced the defendant to time served, two-years of supervised release, and a $400 fine. Judge Seitz further ordered that the funds be directed to the Miami Science Museum for the purpose of supporting the benefit, preservation, and protection of protected species of reptiles.
In order to protect certain species of fish and wildlife against over-exploitation, the United States signed an international treaty known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, T.I.A.S. 8249 (hereinafter “CITES”). Appendix II of CITES lists wildlife species that may become endangered unless their trade is subject to strict regulation. Congress has implemented CITES in the United States through the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the USFWS has published regulations to implement the CITES. The regulations require that, before exporting a specimen of any animal protected under Appendix II of CITES from the United States, an exporter must obtain a valid CITES export permit from USFWS. Additionally, prior to the export of any wildlife, the exporter must file a completed, signed, and certified Declaration for Importation or Exportation of Fish or Wildlife (Form 3-177) with the USFWS.
On August 25, 2011, the defendant arrived at Miami International Airport to board a flight for Brazil. At the pre-flight security checkpoint, the defendant was scanned with Advanced Imaging Technology. Thereafter, Transportation Security Administration officials directed Borges into a private room for further screening. The defendant denied having anything hidden in his pants. Subsequently, he was asked to empty his cargo pants pockets, and he removed two hatchling pythons tightly wrapped in nylon pantyhose. The TSA officials then asked him to remove any foreign objects from his groin area. Borges pulled his underwear away from his body and removed two nylon pantyhose containing numerous snakes and tortoises. The two pantyhose each contained several tightly balled-up pythons and tortoises separated by tight knots in the nylon. The objects in his pocket also proved to be pythons wrapped in nylon pantyhose. All of the pythons and tortoises were several-week old hatchlings.
A USFWS Inspector identified the wildlife as three (3) ball pythons (Python regius); three (3) carpet pythons (Morelia spilota); one (1) children’s python (Antaresia childreni); one (1) Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans); and two (2) leopard tortoises (Stigmochelys pardalis). All of these specimens of wildlife are protected under Appendix II of CITES. The defendant did not have the necessary documentation or license.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts U.S. Transportation and Security Administration and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Raich.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.