A California teen could face up to two decades in prison after authorities say a baby tiger was discovered in his car as he tried to cross back into the U.S. from Mexico.
Luis Eudoro Valencia was allegedly on his way back to Riverside County Wednesday when U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents say they spotted the cub on the floor near his passenger seat.
Officers reportedly removed the tiger from the vehicle and placed it in an animal crate until agents from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service could respond to the border crossing.
“CBP officers are often faced with unusual situations,” said Pete Flores, director of field operations for CBP in San Diego. “The CBP officers at the Otay Mesa port of entry met the challenge head-on and assisted in preserving the life of this endangered species.”
Valencia, 18, a U.S. citizen, was arrested and transported to Metropolitan Correctional Center to await arraignment.
According to court documents, Valencia told a judge he purchased the cub on the streets of Tijuana for $300 from someone who was walking a full-size tiger on a leash.
Valencia has since been released on a $10,000 bond and ordered to appear for a preliminary hearing on September 5.
Agents from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service took custody of the tiger cub and are working with the San Diego Zoo Global to ensure its well-being.
If convicted of smuggling the protected species, Valencia could face up to 20 years in prison.