Here’s a story that might make you think twice before opening up those Christmas packages you get in the mail this year.
A German man was arrested last week in Los Angeles for allegedly smuggling hundreds of endangered tarantulas and other spiders by mailing them into the country.
Federal agents captured 37-year-old Sven Koppler of Watchberg, Germany after a nine month long sting dubbed “Operation Spiderman” and charged him with illegally importing wildlife into the United States. If convicted, Koppler faces up to 20 years in Federal Prison.
Authorities began their investigation last March after custom officials found 300 live tarantulas during a routine search of a package. Agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife posed as spider buyers, and soon were receiving packages from Koppler containing hundreds of live tarantulas, including 22 Mexican red-kneed tarantulas, which is an endangered species and protected under an international treaty.
Federal agents say Koppler has netted up to $300,000 from selling spiders to people all over the world. .
Authorities say that the 1000 tarantulas that were confiscated in the sting are in federal custody, and after they are used as evidence will be relocated to zoos.
Photo credit: cc:flickr.com/photos/mwestcalifornia