NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (FOX 13) - To their neighbors, Novita Indah and Larry Malugin were the quiet couple who lived across the street. A recently released indictment from the Department of Justice revealed what was really happening behind closed doors.
"To find out such a major thing was going on and with such dangerous animals," said Janice Parres, the couple's neighbor.
According to the indictment, both Indah and Malugin face charges related to smuggling protected, and potentially dangerous, wildlife to the U.S. from Indonesia, then reselling the animals from their Port Richey home.
"I'm wondering how they managed to have these snakes inside their home for so long and to do this business which seemed to be quite profitable, and go undetected so long," said Parres.
Investigators said the couple began their illegal business in Indonesia back in 2011. They brought it with them to U.S. when they moved to Florida in 2013.
They said the couple used eBay as a way to advertise their trafficked goods to buyers across the world.
"It damages the native wildlife," said Parres. "It threatens that and people's lives if you come across that and you're not prepared."
In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovered hundreds of items from the couple's home, including a cobra and a python.
The owner of Exotic Pets in Tarpon Springs, Gary Foster said those kinds of snakes have no business being kept as pets.
"Florida has pretty strict laws concerning animals that are invasive, that's animals that don't belong here," said Foster.
Those laws were put in place to keep the environment in order.
"What they do is upset the balance of nature," explained Foster. "Because like the giant Burmese pythons that are now in the everglades, they'll eat the local animals that are down there, and there's really no way of controlling them."
Foster said permits can be obtained to keep some types of exotic animals, in certain circumstances, but there are requirements regarding owner experience and habitat.
The DOJ said the couple could face up to 20 years in federal prison on smuggling charges and an additional five years for other violations if convicted.