Monterey Park Man Pleads Guilty to Smuggling After 3 King Cobra Snakes Found Inside Potato Chip Cans

A King Cobra is displayed to the public at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm on August 2, 2016 in Bristol, England. (Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A Monterey Park man pleaded guilty Thursday to animal smuggling after customs officers discovered three deadly king cobra snakes hidden in potato chip cans in a package shipped to his home, officials said.

Rodrigo Franco, 34, admitted to smuggling more than 20 cobras — which sell on the black market for about $2,000 each — in at least three shipments, according to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court. In exchange for one shipment, Franco sent a package to Hong Kong with six protected turtles.

He faces 20 years in federal prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. He is due to be sentenced in December.

For months, prosecutors said, Franco used WhatsApp, a smartphone messaging platform, to negotiate shipments of snakes and turtles to and from Hong Kong.

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