Venezuelan Caught Smuggling Exotic Fish and Coral in Suitcase at Miami International Airport

Categories: Crime

coral_reef_public.jpg
Venezuelans are used to going to great lengths to obtain everyday items. Under the country's late president Hugo Chávez and his socialist party, basic foodstuffs have become scarce. Some Venezuelans wait hours for groceries, while others resort to smuggling items like chicken, flour, and toilet paper across the border from Colombia.

Shortages of rare fish and exotic coral probably can't be blamed on Chávez, however.

Yesterday, Venezuelan national Oscar Cordova-Cobian was charged with smuggling marine wildlife after TSA agents at Miami International Airport found more than 100 specimens of live corals, clams, and fish in his checked luggage.

See also: Art By God Owner Convicted of "Illegal Rhinoceros Trafficking"

Cordova-Cobian nearly got away with his crustacean caper. The 42-year-old had already passed through MIA security and was waiting to board a late-night Santa Barbara Airlines flight to Venezuela when TSA agents spotted something fishy inside his checked luggage.

TSA called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and an FWS agent interviewed Cordova-Cobian's cousin Javier, who was still at the security gate. Confronted with an itemized receipt for $2,070 worth of sea creatures from a Hialeah pet store, Javier confessed that Oscar planned to resell them in Venezuela for more than twice that amount.

The FWS agent alerted Homeland Security, and Cordova-Cobian was prevented from boarding his plane. Instead, he waived his Miranda rights and readily admitted to the FWS agent that he had ignored the advice of the Miami pet store and was smuggling sea life back to Venezuela without the proper permits.

(None of the corals, fish, clams, or "live rock" was endangered. However, under international law, individuals must obtain permission before exporting them to other countries.)

In fact, Cordova-Cobian went even further, volunteering that he had smuggled in the past.

Describing himself as a "marine hobbyist and non-practicing dentist," the Venezuelan admitted to previously "exporting approximately 100 marine fish totaling roughly $2,000 on his previous visit to the United States, in his luggage. Cordova-Cobian added that he maintains a company website, granjadecoral.com, on which he advertises marine life, and previously owned a pet shop in Venezuela."

snakesbag.jpg
These snakes almost made it onto a plane.
An hour later, Cordova-Cobian copped to having two other suitcases full of sea critters. He pleaded not guilty in a Miami federal court Monday and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Cordova-Cobian is far from the first person to try to sneak wildlife through Miami International Airport. In 2011, a man was caught trying to board a flight with turtles and snakes stuffed inside pantyhose.

Florida has a brisk black-market animal trade. Last week, the owner of the well-known Miami shop Art by God was convicted of arranging an illegal shipment of black rhino horns overseas.

The international coral trade, meanwhile, has exploded in recent years as advancements in technology have made home aquaculture labs possible.

Send your tips to the author, or follow him on Twitter.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

My Voice Nation Help
4 comments
samueljackson864
samueljackson864 topcommenter

I got stock of good medical strains for sale. So if you are in need of any strain feel free to contact us on cliffhoffman8@gmail.com or text us on (801) 382-9326 for USA and Canada. Also we do sell pain pills and research chemicals so feel free to contact me at any time.

mbarney
mbarney

who cares? this is stupid

Anthonyvop1
Anthonyvop1 topcommenter

The fish and corals were purchased legally but this poor sap is arrested?


I find it reprehensible that anyone can be charged with smuggling anything out of this country. 

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...