A man was arrested in United States for smuggling three live and highly poisonous King Cobra snakes in potato hip cans. The Los Angeles Police reportedly said that the accused has been identified as Rodrigo Franco (34) and he has been charged with illegally importing merchandise into the country from Hong Kong.
AP reported that the United States Customs and Border Protection agents said they intercepted the cans that contained the two-foot (0.61 metre)-long snakes. Three albino Chinese soft-shelled turtles were also found in the package.
Federal agents removed the cobras but delivered the turtles to Franco’s home in Monterey Park.
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 diamond back terrapins. Prosecutors say all of the reptiles are protected under US law.
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.
Franco has admitted during an interrogation with authorities that he had previously received a total of 20 king cobras in two prior shipments but that all of those snakes had died in transit.
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The illegal wildlife trade is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world, ranked alongside the drug trade, human trafficking, and arms dealing in terms of illegal profits.
In some parts of the world, such animals are consumed as delicacies or medicine; in others, they are bought and sold as pets.
If convicted, Franco faces up to 20 years in prison.
–With AP inputs