Man Smuggles Nearly 40,000 Piranhas into New York City

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By Aditya Bhat | February 2, 2014 1:38 AM EST

A man has been accused of smuggling nearly 40,000 piranhas into New York City. The person, Joel Rakower, has been now arrested and has pleaded guilty to getting the piranhas illegally into the Big Apple.

Rakower, 66, was arrested for smuggling in 39,548 piranhas, worth $37,376. The offence was committed between 2011 and 2012. Rakower is a Queens-based fish salesman, who brought the piranhas from Hong Kong through his company Transship Discounts. He had told the supplier to label them as 'silver tetras,' which are popular, non-aggressive aquarium fish.

Piranhas are territorial freshwater fish with sharp teeth and are natives of South America. It feeds on insects, fish and even bigger preys like amphibians, reptiles and mammals.Piranhas attack in groups and are capable of causing nasty injuries. 

Since 2011, New York City has made it illegal to import piranhas which are aggressive. The fish is either illegal or restricted in 25 US states because of its dangerous nature. 

Rakower has entered plea in the Brooklyn federal court. As a part of his plea, he has also agreed to pay an excess of $70,000 in fines and restitution, with his company courting probation for two years.

Rakower was "driven by greed and without regard for the health and safety of people or the environment," said Richard Brown, Attorney, Queens District to the media, reported the National Geographic.

He has been in the business for 30 years and said the incident was an error in judgement. Only 850, out of the 39,548 piranhas he smuggled in, have been recovered.

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(Photo: Wiki Commons (Greg Hume) / )
Nearly 40,000 piranhas smuggled into New York City
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