Canadian student caught with 51 turtles in his pants pleads guilty in Michigan

A black turtle hatchling before it was released at a closed beach in Guatemala City on Nov 4, 2015.
A black turtle hatchling before it was released at a closed beach in Guatemala City on Nov 4, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

MICHIGAN (REUTERS) - A Canadian college student caught at a border checkpoint in August last year with 51 live turtles in his pants pleaded guilty to six smuggling charges on Tuesday (Dec 1) in the US District Court in Ann Arbor.

Kai Xu, 27, of Windsor, Ontario, admitted to smuggling or trying to smuggle more than 1,600 turtles of different species out of the United States from April last year until his arrest in September in the same year. Each of the six counts carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

In August last year, Xu crossed the US-Canada border into Detroit and was watched by US agents as he picked up a package at a parcel centre and appeared to transfer items before heading back to the border, according to a criminal complaint.

When he passed back through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, Xu was stopped by Canadian Border Services, which found and seized 41 live turtles taped to his legs and 10 hidden between his legs, the complaint said.

On the day of his arrest, Xu packed more than 1,000 turtles into suitcases that he sent with a runner he had hired to fly them to Shanghai from Detroit, prosecutors said.

US District Judge John Corbett O'Meara scheduled sentencing for April 12 in Ann Arbor. Xu has been held in federal custody since his arrest.