DENVER (CBS4) – A German cactus collector arrested at Denver International Airport faces charges for taking more than just photos of the prickly plant. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers arrested Simon Langer on Monday as he was boarding a plane to Zurich.
According to the arrest affidavit, in his suitcase, authorities discovered 111 envelopes filled with seeds from different species of cacti.
“It’s really common. Cacti and succulents are some of the most, if not the most, poached plant in the world. It’s a huge problem,” said Sara Randall.
Randall is the President of the Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society. She says cacti are endemic to the Americas, which is part of the problem.
“Stealing cacti and bringing them back to Europe and Asia, it generates money if you sell them. You can sell them on eBay.”
Randall says she doesn’t know exact numbers but estimates the plants worth can range from $50 to $1,000.
The case with Langer didn’t come as a surprise to her, what did was the fact that he had contacted the Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society prior to his recent trip.
“He had reached out to us in February, asking for locations of cacti and where he could find them in Colorado.”
She also found that she had several friends in common with him on Facebook. All had some type of connection to cacti including the president of the National Cactus and Succulent Society.
It was thanks to authorities in Arizona’s Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge, that Langer was caught. They became suspicious when he started asking questions about the locations of specific, endangered cacti and was spotted leaving with seeds.
According to the affidavit, Langer admitted to investigators he not only taken seeds on his recent trip, but he had been to the states before to bring seeds back to Germany. Some he would keep, some he would sell. He said he had over 200 species in his home.
Langer posted a $5,000 bond in federal court in Denver Wednesday. He is being charged with smuggling goods from the United States.