People, Environment

Californian Arrested for Illegally Importing King Cobras

Franco had previously received 20 king cobras in two other shipments.Franco had previously received 20 king cobras in two other shipments.

A man has been arrested on federal smuggling charges after customs officers intercepted a shipment with three live king cobras hidden inside potato chip canisters that were being mailed to his California home, US prosecutors said.

Rodrigo Franco, 34, was scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles on a charge of illegally importing merchandise. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney who could comment on the allegations, CNN reported.

The agents later served a search warrant there and found tanks with a live baby Morelet’s crocodile, alligator snapping turtles, a common snapping turtle and five diamondback terrapins. Prosecutors say all of the reptiles are protected under US law.

Federal agents removed the cobras but delivered the turtles to Franco’s home in Monterey Park. Franco admitted to an agent from the US Fish and Wildlife Service that he had previously received 20 king cobras in two other shipments, but he said they all died in transit, according to court documents.

Federal agents also searched Franco’s phone and found that he exchanged messages with an individual in Asia about shipping turtles and snakes between Hong Kong and the US, prosecutors said.

Franco said in those messages that he had previously received live cobras and planned to give five of the snakes to a relative of the contact in Virginia, court papers said.

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