Highly Venomous King Cobras Smuggled in Potato Chip Cans

Three of the reptiles were found in a package bound for Monterey Park, Calif.

Warning: Don't read this story while snacking!

Federal officials say they have found highly venomous snakes hidden in potato chip cans that were being sent to a home in Southern California.

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The snakes, three king cobras to be precise, were found earlier this year in a shipment bound for a home in Monterey Park, according to the Central District of California U.S. Attorney's Office.

Officials say the shipment was discovered earlier this year but an arrest in the case of the illegally transported snakes — as well as other exotic species — wasn't made until Tuesday.

That's when Rodrigo Franco, 34, was arrested by special agents with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement after he was named in a criminal complaint filed July 21.

United States Customs and Border Protection inspected a package sent from Hong Kong on March 2 and discovered three live king cobra snakes — a protected and highly venomous reptile — each of which was approximately two-feet long, according to the affidavit in support of the complaint.

In addition to the three snakes, the parcel allegedly contained three albino Chinese soft-shelled turtles.

Also on March 2, Franco allegedly mailed six protected turtles — desert box turtles, three-toed box turtles and ornate box turtles — from the United States to Hong Kong.

That shipment also was intercepted by the USFWS.

Though the dangerous cobras were immediately seized from the package, officials say they made a "controlled delivery" of the soft-shelled turtles to Franco’s residence.

Agents then executed a search warrant there.

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During the search, agents say they found the package that originated in Hong Kong in a children’s bedroom where they also discovered a tank containing a live baby Morelet’s crocodile and tanks containing alligator snapping turtles, a common snapping turtle, and five diamond back terrapins — all of which are protected species, according to the affidavit.

Franco made an initial appearance Tuesday afternoon in United States District Court. If convicted of the smuggling charge, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

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