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Smuggler Caught With Turtles Taped to Legs Pleads Guilty

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on December 04, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Canadian man who was caught at the US border with 51 turtles taped to his legs last year, yesterday pled guilty to six smuggling crimes. In a Michigan federal court, Kai Xu, 27, admitted to smuggling or attempting to smuggle 1,000 reptiles in all, according to the Associated Press.

Xu has reportedly been smuggling turtles to China for a while now, and it is a relatively profitable business.

Turtles Worth Twice as Much in China

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward wrote in a court filing, "In China, the turtles he smuggles are worth two to three times the amount he pays here." She wrote that Xu "regularly deals in turtle shipments worth $30,000, $80,000 or $125,000."

Xu was caught with 51 live plastic-wrapped turtles taped to his legs as he tried to enter Canada from the U.S. last year. But American authorities already had their eyes on him. He was being watched in Detroit, where wildlife agents described Xu hanging around trucks at a United Parcel Service and re-emerging with "irregularly shaped bulges under his sweatpants."

Xu reportedly describes himself as an engineering student in Waterloo, Ontario. The University of Waterloo said he wasn't enrolled at the time of his arrest.

The Smuggler's M.O

The Canadian turtle smuggler's modus operandi was to order the reptiles online, and go pick them up in the US. From there, he would either ship them to China or return to Canada with the creatures. It's illegal to export wildlife from the U.S. without a permit from the government, making both his methods problematic.

Xu's defense attorney declined to comment after his client pled guilty. Xu faces 10 years in prison and has been in custody since September 2014. He pled guilty to six crimes having to do with illegal animal export and has not yet been sentenced.

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