If you have a fear or insects or arachnids, you better not check your mail. A German national shipped hundreds of live tarantulas into the United States of America through the post. He pleaded guilty to a federal smuggling charge, said the prosecutors.
You've got mail!
The 37 year old man, Sven Koppler, pleaded guilty on Tuesday. He admitted mailing about 247 tarantulas that were still alive to federal agents who were posing as buyers in Los Angeles in an investigation aptly named, “Operation Spiderman”. Koppler lives in Wachtberg, Germany.
Koppler also admitted that he sent the agents an additional 22 Mexican red-kneed tarantulas. This spider species is formally known as Brachypelma smithi, and this is a spider which is protected due to an international treaty.
The U.S. Attorney’s spokesperson, Thom Mrozen, said that Koppler could face a maximum of 20 years imprisonment in a federal prison when he is sentenced on the 11th of April, 2011. Federal authorities say that the investigation into Koppler started in March after a routine inspection found approximately 300 live tarantulas in a single package which he mailed to Los Angeles.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents ordered more spiders from this tarantula smuggler. In total, these agents were sent 5 packages which contained dozens of both dead and alive tarantulas.
Koppler was arrested on December 2 after he arrived in Los Angeles to meet with an associate. He received $300,000 due to his tarantula sales. According to court documents, the sales to spider lovers are from many different countries around the world. 9 of them lived in the USA.
The Mexican red-kneed tarantula is a native spider of Mexico. This spider can grow up to 4 inches long, and has a leg span of 6 inches. It has a dark body with orange patches on its lets, giving it an appearance of having red knees. These spiders are considered generally quite docile. Female Mexican red-kneed tarantulas can have a life expectancy of over 20 years.
The genus Brachypelma of spider is protected internationlly by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species. This is because the Mexican red-kneed tarantula is considered a threatened species. These spiders can only be legally traded with permits from the exporting nation.
Although “Operation Spiderman” has nearly come to a close with the German ‘Spiderman’ being nabbed, who knows what is lurking in your mailbox. Only time will tell whether this crime will be perpetuated again by copycats.