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article imageMan caught in Operation Spiderman, charged with smuggling spiders

By Cynthia Trowbridge     Dec 10, 2010 in Crime
Los Angeles - By smuggling hundreds of tarantulas into the United States and other countries, one German man became $300,000 richer. He is now facing a long prison term and a hefty fine.
Sven Koppler, 37, of Wachtberg, Germany was charged with smuggling tarantula spiders through the mail. Importing wildlife illegally into the United States carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Williams said, "He is one of the largest importers of illegal tarantulas into the United States. He has been doing it for several years."
Back in March, some international packages were searched and 300 live tarantulas were found in a shipment to Los Angeles.
"They were really surprised to find hundreds of tarantulas in a routine search of the mail," Williams told NBC Los Angeles.
"Operation Spiderman" began with US federal authorities.
A second package was intercepted by US fish and wildlife agents, which contained almost 250 tarantulas and 22 Mexican red-kneed tarantulas, which are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species treaty.
NBC Los Angeles reports agents posed as interested buyers and ordered more tarantulas from Koppler.
In April, they received one package of spiders and last month they received four more packages containing live and dead spiders.
Sky News reports Koppler allegedly emailed an undercover agent, "sending light and small packages containing tarantulas is the best way to avoid customs detection around the world."
Koppler said he could probably "smuggle tarantulas in his luggage when flying to Los Angeles, and would not be caught nine times out of 10, but he preferred not to take the risk."
"I am a foreigner and they will probably put me in prison. You have special laws. You have other laws that we don't have [here in Germany]", Sky News quotes Koppler as saying.
Koppler was arrested in Los Angeles on Dec. 4 when he arrived to meet with his associate.
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