California man sentenced for smuggling snakes in potato chip cans

LOS ANGELES — A Southern California man has been sentenced to five months in federal prison for smuggling three highly venomous king cobras hidden in potato chip canisters through the mail.

In a plea agreement, Rodrigo Franco admitted smuggling another 20 cobras, as well as sending protected turtles to Hong Kong. City News Service says Franco was also sentenced Monday to two years of supervised release.

In a letter to the judge, the 34-year-old ex-auto mechanic wrote that reptiles are his passion.

Customs and Border Protection officers found the three live king cobra snakes while inspecting a package that was mailed from Hong Kong last March. Each was about two feet (just over half a meter) long.

Federal agents searched Franco’s home in Monterey Park and found a crocodile and protected turtles.

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