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Prosthetic leg allegedly used to smuggle iguanas

September 22, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A Long Beach man was indicted Friday on suspicion of stealing three endangered iguanas from a nature preserve in Fiji and smuggling them into the United States in his prosthetic leg.

Jereme James, 33, faces a single count of smuggling, according to a federal indictment. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Prosecutors allege that James stole the Fiji Island banded iguanas while visiting the South Pacific island in September 2002. He then brought the reptiles to the U.S. by hiding them in a special compartment he had constructed in his prosthetic leg, prosecutors said.

James faces arraignment next month. He came under scrutiny several years ago when someone tipped off U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials that he had several of the neon green iguanas, which are protected under an international treatyregulating trade in endangered species.

During an undercover probe, James told investigators he sold three of the iguanas for $32,000, prosecutors said. When a search warrant was served at his house April 26, Fish and Wildlife agents seized four iguanas. The seized iguanas will end up in a breeding program in the U.S., Johns said.

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