Is that beer or a live animal?
It’s a question that few ever have to think about or even answer.
And yet it does occur at rare times.
For example, a spider monkey was illegally smuggled into the United States earlier this year through the ruse of a box that contained “beer.”
Savannah Nicole Valdez, 20, pleaded guilty Nov. 1 to the charge of smuggling wildlife across the border, according to a Department of Justice news release.
The event occurred on March 21 when Valdez attempted to go through a Brownsville, Texas, checkpoint after coming back from Mexico.
“Law enforcement observed a wooden box with holes inside the vehicle which Valdez said contained beer she had purchased in Mexico,” the DOJ said.
However, when authorities opened the box, they found a monkey.
That is when Valdez was asked to comply with a second checkpoint. But she sped away instead, according to the news release.
Afterward, the DOJ said, authorities found online posts regarding a monkey for sale in the Houston area.
In a document on “Bringing Pets and Wildlife into the United States,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection says, “Monkeys and other nonhuman primates may be brought into the United States only for scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes by importers who are registered with [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].
“Under no circumstances may nonhuman primates be imported as pets.”
The inevitable occurred a week later.
Valdez turned herself in on March 28 and admitted that she did not declare the primate prior to entering American soil, according to the DOJ.
She now faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, with sentencing scheduled for Jan. 25.
Valdez is on bond pending a hearing.
As for the monkey, it’s now at an animal shelter in Central Florida and hopefully living its best life in the Sunshine State.
This was not the first nor the last time someone has tried to smuggle apes or monkeys into the United States.
As recently as Nov. 16, individuals referred to as being with an “international primate smuggling ring” were charged with allegedly attempting to transport wild long-tailed macaques into the United States, the DOJ announced.
The moral of the story: If you are crossing lines (state or country) with any animal, research the laws or know the risks beforehand.
It could save you some problems.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.