Second person charged with smuggling Bengal tiger cub

Posted at 6:05 PM, Sep 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-18 21:05:51-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A second man has been charged in the smuggling of a Bengal tiger cub into the United States from Mexico on August 23, 2017.

Eriberto Paniagua - who allegedly told officials at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry that the Bengal tiger cub at his feet was merely a “cat” - was indicted by a federal grand jury and made his first court appearance on Monday. 

According to the indictment unsealed today, the 21-year-old conspired with the driver of the car, 18-year-old Luis Valencia, and others to knowingly import the tiger cub into the United States.

Both men are from Perris, California.

RELATEDCustoms and Border Protection agents seize tiger cub at US-Mexico border

Both defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of smuggling contrary to law.

All species of tigers are listed as endangered under the Endangered SpeciesAct. To legally import an endangered species into the United States requires a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the importation must be accompanied by a Declaration Form 3-177 filed with Fish & Wildlife. 

RELATED: Washington, DC tiger cub flown to San Diego to be paired with smuggled tiger

The Bengal tiger is the most populous subspecies of tiger. The Bengal tiger is native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. According to the World Tiger Recovery Project, there are only 2,500 wild specimens on earth and the population of Bengal tigers is decreasing.
During the arraignment, Paniagua was released on a $25,000 personal surety bond and ordered to appear for a motion hearing/trial setting on October 16, 2017.