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Man Gets Six Months for Smuggling Live Spiders

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By Robin Enos on May 18, 2011 12:44 PM

Sven Koppler does not suffer from arachnophobia.

A federal court has accepted a guilty plea from Mr. Koppler on one count of smuggling wildlife into the U.S. from Germany. Koppler got caught smuggling spiders and hundreds of live tarantulas into the U.S.

Some of the adult live tarantulas measured over six inches, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Koppler, 37, a German national, admitted shipping 247 live tarantulas to federal agents in Los Angeles. In a 10-month sting operation, agents posed as buyers ordering tarantulas and spiders.

Koppler shipped the live tarantulas wrapped in colored plastic straws, and the spiders inside small plastic tubes, reports the Times.

Koppler also shipped 22 Mexican red-knee tarantulas. That species has protection under international treaty. Agents received five packages, including several dozen live and dead tarantulas.

Sven Koppler's guilty plea brings his case to a close, after he faced charges of illegally importing wildlife, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

"He is one of the largest importers of illegal tarantulas into United States. He has been doing it for several years," said Asst. U.S. Atty. Mark Williams to the Los Angeles Times.

Sven Koppler is estimated to have sold over $300,000 worth of spiders and tarantulas, and shipped them to several countries, including the U.S.

Koppler said he was a spider breeder, and that shipping the arachnids is legal in Europe. A prosecution expert said in court documents he believed Koppler was one of the three largest spider smugglers in the world, reports the Associated Press.

"I just can say I'm very sorry about what happened and it wasn't my intention to defraud anyone or anything. I definitely would not do this again," said Koppler in court.

In addition to the six-month prison term for smuggling spiders and live tarantulas, Koppler must pay $4,000 in fines, and serve three years' probation. He will likely be deported to Germany once he finishes his sentence, reports the AP.

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