Shipment of live king cobras in potato chip canisters leads to arrest

A California man was arrested by special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Tuesday on federal charges that he stuffed three king cobra snakes into potato chip canisters and smuggled them into the country.
By Jose Jefferies | Jul 30, 2017
A California man was arrested by special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Tuesday on federal charges that he stuffed three king cobra snakes into potato chip canisters and smuggled them into the country.

King cobras are a protected, highly venomous reptile.

Rodrigo Franco, 34, is charged with one count of illegal importing merchandise into the United States, a statement by the U. S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said.

United States Customs and Border Protection discovered the approximately two-foot-long snakes on March 2, according to an affidavit filed in court. The package, which came from Hong Kong, also contained three albino Chinese soft-shelled turtles.

Because the snakes were considered dangerous, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seized them, but made a special delivery of the turtles to Franco's home. Then, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the USFWS executed a search warrant at the residence.

As a result of the search warrant, agents found more protected species, including snapping turtles, diamond back terrapins, and a live baby Morelet's crocodile.

Franco admitted to authorities that he had received 20 king cobras in two previous shipments, but said those had perished in transit. Evidence from his phone showed messages discussing shipping snakes and turtles between Asia and the U.S.

The smuggling charge against Franco carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

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