In Los Angeles, a man was arrested after customs officers stopped a shipment containing three live king cobras stuffed inside potato chip canisters that were being transported to his home in California.
Thirty-four-year-old Rodrigo Franco was taken into custody Tuesday and now faces a charge of illegally importing merchandise.
The two-foot long king cobra snakes were discovered in March when Customs and Border Protection officers inspected a package that was mailed from Hong Kong. Officers also found three albino Chinese softshell turtles in the package.
Agents allowed the turtles to be shipped to Franco’s home but removed the cobras.
The agents later served a search warrant at Franco’s home in Monterey Park and came across tanks housing a live, baby Morelet’s crocodile, alligator snapping turtles, a common snapping turtle, and five diamondback terrapins.
Authorities say all of the reptiles are protected under U.S. law.
Allegedly, Franco had previously received 20 king cobras in two other shipments, but they all died in transit.
Federal agents seized Franco’s phone and saw that he exchanged messages with a man in Asia about shipping turtles and snakes between Hong Kong and the United States. Franco said in those messages that he had previously received live cobras and planned to deliver five of the snakes to a relative of the contact in Virginia, court papers said.
If convicted, Franco faces up to 20 years in prison.
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