FBI joins the insect heist investigation in Philadelphia

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Vernon Odom's update on the stolen bugs
Vernon Odom reports an update on the stolen bugs during Action News at 5 p.m. on September 7, 2018.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It has been two weeks now since the display cases at the terrarium in Philadelphia's Insectarium were pilfered, almost picked clean.

An estimated 7,000 creatures are missing. Rare insects, lizards, spiders, and some of them venomous.

According to police, the suspects captured on surveillance video during the heist were once trusted employees.

Police say the arrests of at least 4 of them are imminent.

Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion

Philadelphia Police Lieutenant Dennis Rosenbaum said, "We have recovered some of the items, and the investigation is ongoing. Partners in the federal agencies have joined us that due to the fact some of them are evidence of cases, ongoing cases that they had recovered and were storing here while those cases were going through the system."

Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion

School children by the hundreds have poured in here for educational sessions. With 90% of the exhibit animals gone, the effect on the Insectarium has been devastating.

Four employees have been laid off - all because of greed.

Dr. John. Cambridge of the Philadelphia Insectarium said, "They took so many and unless they are opening up their own museum that we all are going to be excited to hear about, it would be impossible provide the right maintenance for them. So I almost hope some of them were sold at this point."

Friday word comes that the FBI is entering the investigation.

"We had eight tarantulas that we were holding as evidence for a smuggling trial that was going to be happening. So yeah, when some creatures are intercepted at a port of entry and someone is found to be importing them without the proper authority, we can be one of the institutions that hold them before they prosecute or whatever else they are going to do," added Dr. Cambridge.

Police hope to make some formal arrests in the next several days.


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