Federal indictment: Tiger cub found in Albuquerque was smuggled from Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque police unexpectedly found a 20-pound tiger cub after they responded to a shooting at Louisiana and Central on Jan. 10, 2023.
A year later a federal indictment is shining light on how the tiger cub, named Duke, got to New Mexico in the first place.
The indictment is charging David Mendoza-Enriquez of Albuquerque with conspiracy for his part in transporting the cub from Mexico to New Mexico.
The plan was to sell the tiger for more than $16,000.
“Exotic animals are very prestigious within the cartels,” said Mike Vigil, who is a former chief of international operations with the Drug Enforcement Agency.
In 2023, KOB 4 asked Vigil for some perspective on these crimes and how common they are.
“Without question, the individuals that had these pets were either cartel members, or they were either, you know, taking these animals to sell them to potential cartel leaders in Mexico,” he said.
The indictment also has photos of the cub with parts of Mendoza-Enriquez’s hands – his tattoos were one of the ways they were able to identify him.
He was also one of 15 people charged with drug trafficking in a separate indictment.
“It was almost a prerequisite to entering the high-ranking drug trafficking organizations if you had your own zoo. You have made it in the drug world,” said Vigil.
Duke is now at a Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. As for Mendoza-Enriquez, he could face five years in prison if convicted.