Smuggling snakes in socks over border

An Ontario man admits to smuggling snakes in his socks across the Canada-U.S. border.

An Ontario man who was caught trying to smuggle snakes into Canada in his socks has pleaded guilty in an American court.

Chaoyi Le, 28, is facing up to five years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to violating wildlife regulations, according to prosecutors in Buffalo, N.Y.

Le’s lawyer, Victor Sherman, said he’s requesting a more lenient sentence of time served.

Le, described in court documents as a resident of Mississauga, Ont., was arrested in April 2014 at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge in western New York.

According to the complaint filed against him, Le was discovered with three western hog-nosed snakes concealed in his socks.

Le initially told customs agents he found the snakes in a New York park, but later admitted to purchasing them for about $500, the complaint said.

He had also mailed a package of snakes to China from the U.S. on the same day, court documents said.

The arrest marked the end of Le’s brief but active time sending live reptiles via mail, the documents said. The complaint said he began doing so in 2013, making several crossings from Ontario to the U.S.

The complaint said Le became a regular customer at a UPS store somewhere in the Buffalo area, where he would travel to send and receive packages.

Le came to the attention of customs officials once before the April 2014 incident, it said.

While en route to China from Toronto in February 2014, Le was stopped at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and was found to be travelling with an assortment of 55 reptiles, including pythons and turtles.

Le was charged in Canadian court with various wildlife violations, according to court documents.

After an initial court appearance, Le flew to China in the summer of 2014 — after his April arrest — and informed customs officials he would be there for the next year or two and would not be attending scheduled Canadian court dates, documents said.

The charges in Canada were ultimately withdrawn in July 2015, according to the American complaint.

Le was then arrested by U.S. authorities this past August when he flew to Los Angeles from Shanghai.

Sherman said Le is set to be sentenced on Oct. 30.

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