Monterey Park Man Arrested For Smuggling King Cobras In Potato Chip Cans
As the old Pringles slogan goes: Once you pop, the fun don't stop. In this instance, however, the "fun" could mean a fatal dose of neurotoxins.
On Tuesday, a Monterey Park man was arrested for illegally importing king cobras into the United States hidden inside potato chip canisters.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced that Rodrigo Franco, 34, was arrested Tuesday morning and is charged with one count of illegally importing merchandise into the United States. That "merchandise" included three king cobras, which the United States Customs and Border Protection had intercepted on March 2. The cobras were each approximately two-feet long, and were hidden inside potato chip canisters that are similar to the ones used by Pringles. Authorities say that three albino Chinese soft-shelled turtles were also part of that parcel (the DOJ doesn't mention if they, too, were stored in some snack-related packaging).
Federal agents later executed a search warrant at Franco's home in Monterey Park. The investigation discovered that Franco had tanks that contained a live baby Morelet’s crocodile, alligator snapping turtles, a common snapping turtle, and five diamond back terrapins—the DOJ notes that they're all protected species.
(Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice)
Franco also told authorities in a subsequent interview that he'd received 20 king cobras in previous shipments, but all the cobras died while in transit.
If convicted, Franco could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
We should mention that the king cobra is wholly deserving of its notoriety. "It seems unfairly menacing that a snake that can literally 'stand up' and look a full-grown person in the eye would also be among the most venomous on the planet, but that describes the famous king cobra," National Geographic says of the feared snake. They add that, "Their venom is not the most potent among venomous snakes, but the amount of neurotoxin they can deliver in a single bite—up to two-tenths of a fluid ounce—is enough to kill 20 people, or even an elephant."