El Paso man pleads guilty to wildlife trafficking in federal court

Crime

FILE – In this May 1, 2015 file photo, a dunes sagebrush lizard is shown. The dunes sagebrush lizard is found among the dunes straddling New Mexico and West Texas in one of the nation’s richest oil basins and is at the center of a new lawsuit. Environmentalists want the federal government to add the lizard to the endangered species list. The fight stretches back to the Bush and Obama administrations and could affect part of the multibillion-dollar energy industry in the Permian Basin. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — An El Paso man pleaded guilty to animal trafficking in federal court in the Western District of Texas. 

Alejandro Carrillo appeared before Senior U.S. District Judge David Briones on charges of conspiring to traffic thousands of live animals that include amphibians, birds, and reptiles valued at more than $3.5 million. 

Carrillo acted as a middle-man for the trafficking ring moving live animals from Mexico into the United States. Many of the animals are protected species under the Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. 

“Carrillo’s arrest and his removal from the trafficking network demonstrate that the Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce laws designed to protect wildlife,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division provided to KTSM 9 News.  

Charges include two counts of an indictment charging Carrillo with conspiring to traffic and smuggle wildlife from Mexico into the U.S. 

As part of the plea, Carrillo admitted to being paid in excess of $92,000 to transport thousands of animals valued at more than $3.5 million. Upon moving the animals from Mexico into the U.S., Carrillo arranged for the animals to be delivered to domestic customers who purchased the endangered creatures from the Mexico-based suppliers. 

“This is a continuing investigation and reflects the seriousness with which we regard these activities and our commitment to hold accountable those who break the law,” said Clark.

Carrillo’s case is part of an ongoing joint-effort to prosecute anyone involved in illegal taking and trafficking of endangered species by the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the Department of Justice.  The prosecution is being handled by the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Sections with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas. 

Carrillo’s sentencing is set to take place on September 16. 

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