Is That An Iguana in Your Leg, Or...

PhotobucketWhen I began my search for a roommate two months ago, I had no idea of the caliber of people I would find on Long Beach Craigslist. There was the young woman with four stinking cats, the Jesus freak, the bipolar lady with tattoos on her face, and Jereme James, the one-legged construction worker.

Faced with these options I chose to move in with Mr. James because the rent was cheap, the house was cute, I would get to keep all of my furniture and my dog would have a yard to play in.

The first sign of awkwardness between us occurred rather early. My dog has a habit of attacking inanimate objects that are pushed around the house. Mops, brooms, the vacuum, they're all fair game. It was when she started attacking Jereme's prosthetic leg that things began to feel uncomfortable. She backed off after a firm scolding from me; Jereme laughed it off like a good sport, but I could tell it was the beginning of the end.

Shortly after the attack, things began to unravel. First, there was the fact that he put the house on the market without telling me. I knew he had tried to sell the home before, but but I had no idea I would have real estate agents touring on a regular basis. The simple act of walking in the door became like a tiny mystery hunt. I wonder if there will be a stranger in my bedroom today. . . . Fun times.

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But what really takes the cake was when I came to work today, sat at my desk, opened my e-mail and found a press release from the US Attorney's office informing me that Jereme James, 34, of Long Beach, the very same Jereme James I was living with, had been found guilty of possessing and concealing three endangered Fijian iguanas that he had allegedly smuggled into the United States by shoving them into his prosthetic leg. Once sentenced, he could face 20 years in federal prison.

I confronted Jereme about the issue by phoning him shortly thereafter. He admitted that he had indeed informed the undercover Fish & Wildlife Service agent that he smuggled the animals overseas in his leg and then sold them for $32,000, but he was joking.

"It's like when I tell people I lost my leg in a bear trap," he said. "It's supposed to be funny."

Turns out, not so funny.

He then explained that his attorney would be appealing the verdict and that he was confident he would not be spending any time behind bars.

"Don't fret it," were his exact words. He says those words a lot.

Fretting, I placed a call to Assistant United States Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy to retrieve some further information. She informed me that information on the press release was correct and Jereme was facing up to 20 years of prison time once sentenced on July 14 of this year. That was when I called Jereme back and told him I was moving out.

So here we are. Since I refuse to use Craigslist ever again, anyone know of any great single apartments in Long Beach that allow dogs? Sure, my dog might attack inanimate objects from time to time--but you might never get to meet her if the Homeland Security Iguana-Sniffing Dog Corps responds to my recent e-mail.

UPDATE: I received another press release this morning from the United States Attorney's Office. It reads:

On Thursday, April 10, 2008, Jereme James, 34, was acquitted by a jury of one count of smuggling stolen rare iguanas into the United States by concealing them in his prosthetic leg. It had been previously alleged that Mr. James stole three Fiji Island banded iguanas and brought them to the United States in violation of federal and international law. A press release issued earlier by United States Attorney's Office erroneously stated that Mr. James had been convicted of this charge.

Mr. James was found guilty on related charges of possessing iguanas that allegedly were brought into the United States contrary to law. Mr. James remains free on bond, and is scheduled to be sentenced on these charges on July 14 by U.S. District Judge Manuel Real.

Jereme James faces a fine and possible probation upon his sentencing.

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