King cobra in a photo-chips can. Photo: US Attorney L.A.@Twitter

Customs officers in Los Angeles on Tuesday arrested a 34-year-old American man for illegally importing merchandise, including three venomous king cobras mailed in potato-chip cans from Hong Kong.

Rodrigo Franco was accused of being involved in shipments of snakes and turtles to and from Hong Kong, Sing Tao Daily reported.

US Customs and Border Protection officers started an investigation in March after inspecting a package and discovering three king cobras, each 60 centimeters long, hidden in potato-chip cans.

Three albino Chinese softshell turtles were also found in the package.

After investigation, officers determined that Franco had attempted to mail six other turtles to Hong Kong.

He told police that he had previously received packages containing 20 king cobras, the longest venomous snake species in the world, but they all died during transit, Sing Pao reported.

If convicted, Franco could face up to 20 years in prison, according to US law.