Rodrigo Franco pleaded guilty to smuggling three king cobras and three Chinese soft-shell turtles into the United States.
Rodrigo Franco, 34, the man who pleaded guilty last September to smuggling three king cobra snakes (Ophiophagus hannah) and three Chinese albino soft-shell turtles (Pelodiscus sinensis) into the United States and sending federally protected turtles to Hong Kong, was sentenced to five months in federal prison and two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $4,500 fine.
United States Attorney’s Office
Rodrigo Franco pleaded guilty to smuggling this king cobra and two others like it as well as three Chinese soft-shell turtles, into the United States.
Franco, in a plea agreement, admitted to smuggling the venomous reptiles into the United States and sending desert box turtles (Terrapene ornata luteola), three-toed box turtles (Terrapene carolina triunguis) and ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata ornata) to China.
Prosecutors agreed that they would seek a sentence of no more than 18 months in prison. Franco’s attorney recommended a sentence of five years probation. He had faced as much as 20 years in prison for his crimes.
When federal agents intercepted the six protected turtles that were destined for Hong Kong, agents made a controlled delivery of the soft-shell turtle package to Franco’s home without the turtles actually in the package.
Federal agents executed a search warrant on the ex auto-mechanic’s home and found a baby crocodile, alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii), a common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) , and five diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin), all protected species, on the property.