NEWARK, N.J. – A Metuchen, New Jersey, man was arrested today for allegedly smuggling shipments of live protected scorpions, giant millipedes and other species that were mislabeled to avoid detection, including one package of millipedes that was labeled as children’s toys, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Wlodzimie Lapkiewicz, 29, is charged by complaint with one count of smuggling wildlife and one count of false labelling of wildlife. He appeared this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court and was released on $50,000 unsecured bond.
According to the complaint:
Between July 2015 and July 2018, Lapkiewicz repeatedly engaged in the illegal importation and exportation of scorpions, giant millipedes, and other invertebrate species. On multiple occasions, Lapkiewicz imported emperor and dictator scorpions, both of which are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species treaty as protected species.
Postal inspectors learned of Lapkiewicz’s illegal imports after they found live scorpions and giant millipedes that had escaped from a parcel originating from Tanzania while in transit to Lapkiewicz in July 2015.
The investigation revealed that Lapkiewicz participated and assisted others in intentionally mislabeling parcels of live wildlife to avoid detection, including labeling a shipment of multiple live giant millipedes as “Plush Toys for my Friends Child about to be born.” The investigation also revealed that Lapkiewicz used social media to arrange buyers for the scorpions, giant millipedes, and other invertebrates that he illegally imported.
The charge of wildlife smuggling carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of false labelling of wildlife carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Honora Gordon, with the investigation leading to these charges. He also thanked postal inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Judy Ramos, for their assistance.
The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Barnes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Public Protection Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: David Holman Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark