After being suspicious of a package shipped from Hong Kong, U.S. agents opened up what appeared to be potato chip cans to find three live snakes in the containers.
The king cobra snakes were set to be delivered to 34-year-old Rodrigo Franco, who could be facing 20 years in prison now on a charge of illegally importing merchandise, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday, according to NPR. Franco is also being accused of falsifying records and violating the Endangered Species Act.
The lethal king cobra snakes were sent to Franco's address via the U.S. Postal Service. The court affidavit reveals that the venomous animals were around 2 feet long.
In addition to the snakes, which arrived on March 2, U.S. officials found three albino Chinese soft-shelled turtles when opening Franco's parcel.
While the king cobras were removed from the package, the agents allowed the turtles to be delivered to Franco's address the following day. The U.S. Attorney's Office explained that this action took place under controlled circumstances before carrying out a raid.
Agents from both the FWS and the Homeland Security Department executed the search warrant at Franco's home. Upon entering the premises, the officials found more animals living tanks including five Terrapins, two snapping turtles, and a baby Morelet's crocodile.
As the agents raided his apartment, Franco returned home and was put in questioning. He explained to the officials that he had previously received two shipments in which he bought 20 king cobras.
Franco told the police that they all died. However, the investigators discovered evidence suggesting that some of the snakes had survived. After pouring through his text messages, agents read exchanges in which Franco mentioned feeding and delivering five snakes.
The package containing the snakes was initially flagged by a Customs and Border Protection agent. It was opened under the suspicion that it might be transporting drugs. The agent noticed something moving and proceeded to place a call to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.0comments
Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Stephanie Johnson recognized the Hong Kong shipper's address and recalled having a previous interaction with the provider that included an offer of selling venomous snakes.
Agents from the Fish and Wildlife Service are of the belief that Franco has been exchanging rare animals with his Hong Kong contact for months.