Accused lizard smuggler pleads not guilty

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December 22, 2009 5:11:32 AM PST
A man accused of strapping 15 live lizards to his chest to get through customs at Los Angeles International Airport has pleaded not guilty to federal charges.

Michael Plank of Lomita, Calif., entered his plea Monday to a count of smuggling wildlife into the United States, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says Plank was returning from Australia in November when customs agents found two geckos, two monitor lizards and 11 smaller lizards fastened to his body.

Authorities say the lizards' value totals more than $8,500. All Australian reptiles are strictly regulated, and authorities say Plank had no permit for them.


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