BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A Texas woman could face 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to smuggling a spider monkey into the country and then fleeing from law enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.
Savannah Nicole Valdez, 20, of Katy, pleaded guilty to smuggling wildlife into the United States without first declaring and invoicing the animal, authorities said.
Valdez also pleaded guilty to fleeing an immigration checkpoint, the USAO said Tuesday.
On March 21, Valdez entered the United States through the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville. When she arrived at the checkpoint, law enforcement noticed a wooden box with holes inside the vehicle.
According to a news release from the USAO, Valdez told agents the box was filled with beer she had bought in Mexico. When authorities opened the box they found a live spider monkey. Valdez was referred to secondary inspection.
Authorities say Valdez refused to comply with the agent’s instructions and sped off through the checkpoint. Valdez ran a traffic light and nearly collided with officers and other vehicles, according to the release.
An investigation of the case on the same day revealed 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 release stated.
A week after the incident at the checkpoint, Valdez contacted law enforcement and turned herself in.
“She admitted to knowingly importing the monkey despite not declaring it and intentionally fleeing from law enforcement,” the release stated.
The monkey was recovered and placed in an animal shelter in central Florida.
Valdez is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 25, 2023, and could face up to 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. She was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing, authorities said.