Man arrested for smuggling live king cobras in potato chip containers

A photo released by the U.S. Department of Justice shows a package that customs inspectors found March 2, 2017, containing three live 2-foot king cobra snakes.

LOS ANGELES – A California man allegedly used potato chip containers and the U.S. Postal Service to smuggle deadly king cobras into the country.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service special agents arrested 34-year-old Rodrigo Franco, of Monterey Park, Tuesday morning, and charged him with one count of illegal importing.

Each cobra was smuggled inside its own potato chip container, which were found in a parcel sent from Hong Kong, officials said. (U.S. Department of Justice)

In March, Customs and Border Protection agents were inspecting a shipment from Hong Kong when they opened three potato chip canisters and found the venomous, 2-foot-long snakes coiled inside.

CBP agents said they found three albino Chinese soft-shelled turtles in the same parcel. Another package that Franco allegedly mailed on the same date contained desert box turtles, three-toed box turtles and ornate box turtles, all protected animals. That shipment was seized by the USFWS.

When questioned, Franco admitted that he had received 20 similar shipments in the past, but all of those snakes died during transport, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Agents searched Franco’s home and found another package in a child’s bedroom, along with a baby Morelet crocodile and tanks of various species of protected turtles, according to the complaint.

If found guilty, Franco could face a maximum of 20 years in prison.