We have all heard about the movie “Snakes on a Plane”, but the next time you reach for a container of potato chips, you need to look before you open it. Federal agents have arrested a well-known animal smuggler and charged the many with, of all things, trying to sneak three live King Cobras into the country in containers of Potato chips.
ICE officers said that Rodrigo Franco, 34, of Monterey Park, has been charged with one count of illegally importing merchandise and his arraignment is scheduled for next month. The official report says that Franco attempted to smuggle a trio of highly venomous King Cobras into the country by shipping them to himself in containers of potato chips. Each of the snake were about 2 feet in length and were discovered when Customs and Border Protection officers inspected a package mailed from Hong Kong according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. In addition, officers also found three albino Chinese soft-shelled turtles in the package, according to authorities.
Officials said due to the danger the cobras posed to anyone handling the package, they were removed, but they left the turtles in the package to be delivered to Franco’s home by federal agents. After he accepted delivery of the package, Agents served him with a federal warrant. The agents allegedly found Franco’s home filled with reptiles, including tanks with a live baby Morelet’s crocodile, alligator snapping turtles, a common snapping turtle and five diamond back terrapins. Prosecutors said each of those creatures is protected under U.S. law.
This was not Franco’s first time being accused in a cobra-smuggling attempt. Franco told an agent from the U.S. 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. Agents searched Franco’s phone and discovered messages he exchanged with a person in Asia regarding shipping turtles and snakes between Hong Kong and the U.S., 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.
If convicted, Franco could spend 20 years in prison.