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News

15 Lizards, 15 Months: Wildlife Smuggler Gets His Sentence

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The famous Larchmont Lizard (read more about this guy here) (Photo by manmadepants via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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It was a nice try, but against the law, and today the actions of Michael Plank of Lomita have had their consequences set. Plank, 42, has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for smuggling 15 lizards from Australia into the United States--so basically one month per lizard.

Plank brought the lizards (two Geckos, two Monitor lizards, and 11 Skink lizards) into the U.S. in November 2009; he was busted as he attempted to pass through customs at Los Angeles International Airport with the lizards stashed in money belts.

Last year, Plank pleaded guilty to the charges. The big stink about the lizards being smuggled is in part because one of the species he was packing, the Monitor lizard, is
"listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that the species may become threatened with extinction unless trade is closely controlled," explains the Department of Justice. Additionally, wildlife trafficking is something the government considers "a serious crime that will result in significant prison time for those who engage in this despicable activity."