ASBURY PARK, N.J. – A New Jersey man accused of smuggling exotic bugs faces federal charges connected to the illegal import of invertebrates, including emperor scorpions.
Wlodzimie Lapkiewicz, 29, of Metuchen was accused of ordering international shipments packed with up to 69 of the imposing arachnids, among other bug purchases, without doing the proper paperwork, a federal court document shows.
He was arrested Thursday and charged with smuggling wildlife and false labeling of wildlife, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Lapkiewicz had been warned before about the law, the court document shows.
Three years ago, live scorpions and millipedes escaped from a package on a U.S. Postal Service delivery truck bringing the bugs from Tanzania to Lapkiewicz's home in Metuchen.
The postal inspector called an exterminator to wipe out the hoard and warned Lapkiewicz that the import was unlawful.
Lapkiewicz admitted to ordering 20 giant African millipedes, five egg cases containing praying mantises, and 20 emperor scorpions, which grow up to 8 inches long, according to the Cincinnati Zoo website.
He said they were for "personal use," the court document shows.
A few months later, two millipedes escaped in the Metuchen post office from a package intended for Lapkiewicz. In the weeks after that, French customs agents seized dozens of emperor scorpions from Cameroon addressed to Lapkiewicz.
Lapkiewicz didn't have a permit to import these animals, the document shows.
Lapkiewicz was selling them on Facebook, authorities found, offering emperor scorpions for $70, five species of millipedes for prices between $15 and $60, and two spiders for $25.
Lapkiewicz was again warned by authorities in December 2015 that the imports were illegal without the proper authorization, the document shows.
Even so, authorities claim that in June they seized a package for Lapkiewicz in Indiana that contained multiple live giant millipedes.
The label read: "Plush Toys for my Friends Child about to be born."
A package of 245 live orchid mantids was seized at John F. Kennedy International Airport in July.
As of the date of his charges, Lapkiewicz didn't file the government form required for importing wildlife.
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