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Las Vegas man who smuggled iguana meat sentenced

April 26, 2012 |  3:11 pm

Confiscated iguana meat
A 38-year-old Las Vegas man was sentenced Thursday to two years in federal prison after admitting that he tried to smuggle 159 pounds of iguana meat from Mexico into the U.S.

Eliodoro Soria Fonseca admitted in San Diego federal court that he intentionally concealed the iguana meat inside several coolers because he lacked the necessary import permits from the U.S. or Mexican governments. The meat was to be sold for human consumption, prosecutors said.

Importation of iguana meat is permitted but only under restrictions meant to keep from depleting certain populations of the of the lizard. The iguana is listed as imperiled but not yet endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The iguanas had been beheaded, skinned and deboned and hidden under several pounds of fish, according to court documents.

Fonseca admitted that the iguanas came from the Nyarit area of Mexico. A wildlife expert told the court that removing more than 100 iguanas from the region could wipe out the local population.

Iguana meat also often carries salmonella, officials said. Fonseca was arrested attempting to cross the border at Otay Mesa on June 10, 2011.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Iguana meat confiscated in June 2011 from a Las Vegas man crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection