'Operation Spiderman' Brings Down Notorious Spider Smuggler

A German tarantula smuggler, Sven Koppler, was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles after a months-long sting dubbed "Operation Spiderman," in which Koppler allegedly shipped hundreds of live and rare tarantulas wrapped in straws to buyers in the U.S.

Back in March, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began intercepting packages of hundreds of live and dead tarantulas sent from Germany. According to Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Williams, speaking with The Los Angeles Times, "[Koppler] is one of the largest importers of illegal tarantulas into the United States. He has been doing it for several years." Koppler is believed to have made over $300,000 from the sale of tarantulas, which include internationally-protected Mexican red-kneed tarantulas, or Brachypelma smithi.

Koppler faces charges of illegally importing wildlife, which could get him 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

[LAT, Reuters]

[Image via AP]