SAN DIEGO — An 18-year-old man who tried to smuggle a 6-week-old Bengal tiger cub into San Diego from Mexico was sentenced Tuesday to six months in federal prison.
Luis Eudoro Valencia, of Perris, pleaded guilty in December to a charge of conspiracy to import tigers.
The defendant admitted that last Aug. 18, he contacted a co-conspirator in Mexico to make arrangements to obtain the tiger cub. Four days later, Valencia got a message from his Mexico contact stating that the cub would be arriving at the Tijuana Airport that night.
The following afternoon, when Valencia and a companion entered the United States from Mexico in a 2017 Chevrolet Camaro with no license plates, the tiger cub was on the floor of the vehicle, underneath the legs of the passenger, who told authorities the animal was a cat, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie K. Pierson.
Valencia failed to declare the animal, which was promptly seized by border inspectors. The cub was taken to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and named Moka.
The defendant told investigators that he had arranged to pay $300 for the tiger cub from a man he saw walking an adult tiger on a leash in Tijuana.
Valencia’s attorney said his client wanted the tiger cub as a pet, but prosecutors said cell phone data shows that the defendant was running an animal smuggling business and had boasted about making thousands of dollars by selling monkeys, jaguars and lions.