Infamous Lizard Smuggler Sentenced in Los Angeles

lizard man haul photo
Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Reptile smuggler, the 'Lizard Man', earned his alias by doing something quite stupid, and ironically even a bit cold hearted. Back in 2009, Michael Plank boarded a plane from Australia bound for Los Angeles and endured the 14 hour flight while harboring more than a few undoubtedly uncomfortable secrets. After landing, U.S. customs agents discovered two geckos, two monitor lizards, and 11 skinks strapped across his body -- wildlife he was attempting to sneak into the country to sell. Now the 'Lizard Man' is going to jail.Plank, a reptile dealer from Lomita, California, faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for smuggling wildlife into the United States, a charge to which he pleaded guilty. Transporting the wildlife without a permit is and failing to declare the animals is illegal, but the reptile dealer stood to gain a sizable profit selling the lizards on the black market. All told, the 15 reptiles are valued at an estimated $23,500.

Obviously, however, things didn't work out well for the Lizard Man. Plank was in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday; his plea for leniency was based on an argument that he was driven by a love of lizards, not greed.

"Since the first lizard I caught as a child ... I've had an affection for these reptiles," Plank said in court, as reported by the Beverly Hills Courier. His attorney, Larry M. Bakman, later described Plank as being an "obsessive-compulsive addict" when it comes to reptiles.

Plank admitted that in the last three years he had made dozens of trips to Australia to "capture these things in the wild' and smuggle them back to sell.

For his crime, a U.S. District Judge sentenced Plank to 15 months behind bars, three years of probation, and a $2,000 fine.

As for the lizards Plank so rudely plucked from the wild by Plank -- they've been transfered to the San Diego Zoo.

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