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Crime News

California Man Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Live Coral Specimens in Pringles Cans

Jorge Vazquez admitted to stashing the contraband coral in his mom's luggage when she went to Mexico.

By Noah Hurowitz

Once you pop, you just can’t stop.

A California man pleaded guilty this week to trying to smuggle live coral into Mexico by hiding it in Pringles cans and shoving it into his mother’s luggage before she flew out of the United States, according to City News Service.

Jorge Vazquez, 40, admitted in federal court on Monday that he had schemed to bring more than 70 living invertebrates, including 27 live coral specimens, into Mexico to sell to clients there, in violation of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Vazquez was using an online forum to sell the marine critters, which are frequently used to decorate aquariums, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Officials made the fishy find during a baggage inspection at LAX in 2013, when they discovered nine Pringles cans brimming with aquatic life stuffed into the mom’s luggage. She was bringing the coral contraband on her way to Mexico City, where Vazquez was planning to sell the corals to his customers, according to City News Service.

Vazquez, who is not a United States citizen and now faces possible deportation, could serve up to a year in prison, a year of supervised release after prison, and up to a $100,000 fine for the smuggling conviction, according to NBC Los Angeles.

In a press release following the September 2017 indictment of Vazquez, the US Attorney for California’s Central District said the type of wildlife smuggling in which Vazquez was engaged poses a grave threat to the planet.

“The mountains, plains and oceans of this planet are under constant assault from those who would harvest these resources without end,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. "The corals in these cases were being trafficked for the sole purpose of decorating fish tanks. We will enforce federal laws that control the trafficking of wildlife to ensure the ongoing survival of plants and animals that all serve an important role in the environment.”

[Photo: Getty Images]