Man Gets 2 Years for Smuggling 115 Dead Iguanas into U.S.

The Las Vegas-area gourmand's tastes got him arrested at the Mexican border

By Sam Schulz
|  Friday, Apr 27, 2012  |  Updated 8:24 AM EDT
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A Las Vegas man got two years in federal prison for smuggling 159 pounds of iguana meat — that's 115 iguanas — into the U.S. from Mexico.

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A Las Vegas man on his way home from Mexico is now heading to federal prison, after cops caught him trying to sneak 159 pounds worth of 115 dead iguanas over the border, Reuters reported.

According to federal prosecutors, last year 38-year-old Eliodoro Soria Fonseca tried to smuggle the beheaded, skinned and deboned lizards — a popular protein in central America — hidden beneath a layer of fish packed in coolers.

When he was sentenced in San Diego Thursday to two years in federal prison, Fonseca admitted he intentionally hid the meat when he crossed into California from Mexico because he didn't have the proper permits from the U.S. and Mexican governments.

Although iguanas are considered imperiled but not endangered, they are regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Reuters reported that according to one iguana conservation expert, removing more than 100 iguanas from a particular area meant the local population was "technically wiped out."

Fonseca might have done well to have turned to Puerto Rico to sate his iguana craving.

The island launched a program this year to export the meat of the reptiles — which there are an invasive, non-native species — for food for up to $6 a pound, NBC Miami reported.

In Mexico, iguana meat is often roasted or parboiled and eaten in tacos, flautas and stewed, according to Reuters.

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