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Real-Life Snakes on a Plane: Man Smuggles 7 Snakes

Texas snake expert caught at DFW Airport with snakes hidden in jacket

By Ben Russell
|  Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013  |  Updated 10:56 PM EDT
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A Texas snake expert has pleaded guilty to smuggling seven snakes into the United States. The man bought the snakes in Peru and flew with them by hiding them in his jacket.

Ben Russell, NBC 5 News

A Texas snake expert has pleaded guilty to smuggling seven snakes into the United States. The man bought the snakes in Peru and flew with them by hiding them in his jacket.

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A Tyler snake expert pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to smuggling seven Peruvian snakes into the United States by concealing them underneath his jacket.

William Lamar, 63, was caught with the snakes in August at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. He had purchased the snakes at a market in Lima, Peru, and flew with them in his jacket to Miami and then to DFW, where a Transportation Security Administration officer found them while Lamar was trying to board a commuter flight to Tyler.

The snakes were all small, about six inches long, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Lamar transported them in plastic cases in his jacket.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, five of the snakes were venomous. The five Peruvian pit vipers included three Bothrops barnetti and two Bothrops pictus. The other two snakes were an Oxyrhopus fitzingeri and a Pseudalsophis elegans.

Lamar is a partial owner of Colorado-based ecotourism company Green Tracks, according to a representative who answered the phone at the company's listed phone number Tuesday. His biography on the company website states that Lamar also conducts research on reptiles and amphibians for the University of Texas at Tyler.

A university spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that Lamar has been an adjunct professor there but was not able to confirm his current status with the school.

Lamar is the author of at least three books on snakes and reptiles and has been a speaker at an event for the Austin Herpetological Society, among other events in that field.

According to several articles posted online, Lamar has spent decades doing research in the Amazon and leading tours in the region.

According to U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, Lamar stated in an Eastern District of Texas courtroom that he knew he was violating the law by transporting the snakes in his jacket without proper authorization.

Lamar was not available for comment Tuesday.

He could face up to five years in prison at sentencing, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

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