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Illegal shipment of deadly cobras foiled

King cobra emerging from potato chip can
This king cobra was one of three hidden in potato chip cans inside a package from Hong Kong. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Postal Inspection Service recently helped foil an attempt to smuggle deadly snakes into the United States using potato chip cans.

Three king cobras shipped via USPS were on their way from Hong Kong to a Monterey Park, CA, home when federal agents intercepted the suspicious package.

The interception occurred after U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents reviewed the parcel and were surprised to see it move.

“We do not want U.S. Mail used for illegal shipment of endangered animals, so the Inspection Service became involved,” said Los Angeles Postal Inspector Carl Nonas-Truong.

Three potato chip cans inside the package each contained a king cobra. The snakes, which are extremely dangerous, can reach 18 feet in length with enough venom in one bite to kill as many as 20 people.

The cobras were confiscated, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Postal Inspection Service allowed the delivery of three albino Chinese soft-shelled turtles also hidden in the package to execute a search warrant.

The suspect was later arrested and could face 20 years in prison.

Officials said if someone had been bitten by the snakes, it’s likely they would have died.

“It’s important to be aware of potentially illegal and dangerous mail threats,” said Nonas-Truong, who assisted in the controlled delivery, search warrant and suspect interview.

“For the safety of employees and our customers, always report suspicious mail to the Inspection Service,” he said.

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