Unlike many of the thousands of people who smuggle wildlife into Los Angeles every year, the authorities say, Sven Koppler chose not to conceal his exotic tarantulas under his clothing. They say he bundled them in multicolored straws or plastic containers and sent them in boxes through the United States Postal Service.
Mr. Koppler, 37, arrived in Los Angeles from his native Germany on Wednesday intending to meet an associate in the tarantula trade, said Mark Williams, an assistant United States attorney here with the environmental crimes section. Agents from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service took him into custody as he left the airport. “This will definitely have a significant impact on the tarantula trade, given the volume of tarantulas this guy was selling,” Mr. Williams said.
Tarantulas can fetch up to $1,000 each for females of breeding age.
Mr. Koppler was charged Thursday morning with one count of illegally importing wildlife into the United States, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Mr. Koppler remained in federal custody, and a public defender was assigned to him.
The tarantulas that were confiscated — more than 1,000 of them — remained in federal custody as well, designated as evidence for the remainder of the investigation, said Mr. Williams. Their next stop will be local zoos…
Fish and Wildlife Service agents and postal investigators posed as buyers and contacted Mr. Koppler at his home in Wachtberg, Germany, to request tarantula shipments in the spring and summer. Mr. Koppler complied, federal agents said, sending a package in April of about 71 tarantulas (one was dead). In November, he sent four more batches with a mix of live and dead cargo, they said, adding that each purchase included Mexican red-kneed tarantulas.
Federal agents said their review of records of Mr. Koppler’s transactions show he had earned about $300,000 selling tarantulas to people in more than 40 countries, including nine buyers in the United States…
“He made really good money doing that,” Mr. Williams said of Mr. Koppler. “He had clients in every continent in the world and several states. He was a prolific wildlife smuggler.”
Yes, he’s very good at being a creep, exploiting endangered wildlife, avoiding rules designed to protect critters from sleazy bastards who sell them to equally ill-bred buyers.