A German man apparently smuggled hundreds of tarantulas and various other arachnids into the US, authorities said on Friday, according to AFP.
Authorities set up a sting to catch 37-year-old Sven Koppler in a sting called “Operation Spiderman,” the news agency reported. He was arrested on Thursday after flying into Los Angeles.
"He is one of the largest importers of illegal tarantulas into United States. He has been doing it for several years," Assistant US Attorney Mark Williams told the Los Angeles Times.
Williams said that Koppler made around $300,000 for selling off the spiders in various countries including the US. The Times reported that he could get a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and fine of $250,000.
In March, officers found around 300 live tarantulas while they were checking a package, prompting the investigation."They were really surprised to find hundreds of tarantulas in a routine search of the mail," Williams told the Times.
A subsequent package was discovered by US Fish and Wildlife agents that contained 250 live tarantulas, including 22 Mexican red-kneed tarantulas. They were wrapped in plastic straws.
"Sending light and small packages containing tarantulas is the best way to avoid customs detection around the world," Koppler allegedly said via emails to an undercover agent, according to AFP.
In the affidavit, he said that he is a “foreigner and they will probably put me in prison,” adding that the US has “special laws” that Germany does not have, AFP reported.