A Texas woman has pleaded guilty to some monkey business at the US-Mexico border.
Savannah Nicole Valdez, 20, was accused of smuggling a live spider monkey into the United States inside a beer box, running from border guards and then being busted when she tried to peddle the simian online, officials said.
The Katy, Texas, woman was first spotted trying to pull her scheme on March 21 at the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas, when authorities noticed the suspicious box in her car.
She told them she was carrying beer that she bought in Mexico, but the border agents weren’t fooled – noticing holes in the wooden box.
When they opened the enclosure, they discovered the live spider monkey inside and instructed Valdez to pull over.
But the woman refused and sped off, running a traffic light and “nearly colliding with officers and other vehicles,” officials said.
“Later that day, agents found multiple online postings advertising the sale of the spider monkey in the Katy and Houston areas with Valdez’s phone number listed in the advertisements,” the Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.
A week later, she turned herself in and admitted that she had smuggled the primate and fled the scene.
“The monkey was ultimately recovered and placed with an animal shelter in the Central Florida area,” officials said.
Valdez pleaded guilty this month to smuggling wildlife into the US without first declaring and invoicing it, as well as fleeing an immigration checkpoint.
“Smuggling in endangered species for commercial gain is a tragic crime against nature’s precious resources,” Acting Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee said in a statement.
Valdez faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine when she is sentenced Jan. 25.