Florida man guilty of illegal exotic animal trade

This Nov. 7, 2018 image provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows an escaped pet Asian water monitor lizard after it was captured in Davie, Fla. (Eric Suarez/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission via AP, File

By: Ryan Carl | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 8, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. (WCTV) — A Florida man admitted in a Tampa court Wednesday that he smuggled over 20 water monitor lizards from the Philippines, the Department of Justice said in a press release.

The Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service teamed with the DOJ in Operation Sounds of Silence, which has a mission to capture and charge anyone involved in illegally trading protected species.

Akbar Arkam, 44, broke the Lacey Act, which bans the trade of illegal wildlife. According to court documents, he operated from January to December 2016.

The lizards, often traded for their beautiful designs, were stuffed in socks and sealed with tape, prosecutors say. They were then placed in electronic equipment and shipped commercially under false labels.

An associate in Massachusetts would receive the lizards and send them to Akram. According to officials, the lizards were sold to clients in Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Operation Sounds of Silence is an ongoing effort.

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