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Smuggler pleads guilty to trafficking China-bound turtles through Metro Detroit

Smuggler pleads guilty to trafficking China-bound turtles through Metro Detroit

DETROIT, MI — A Canadian man pleaded guilty Tuesday to illegally smuggling exotic turtles from the U.S. using several unique methods.

Kai Xu, 27, of Windsor, Ontario admitted to making at least six turtle smuggling runs in 2016. It appears, based on the majority of the shipments disclosed to prosecutors, the animals were destined for China.

According to U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade’s office, Xu traveled to the U.S. through Detroit and collected live turtles sent through Fed Ex and UPS to locations in Metro Detroit. The majority of the shipments disclosed to prosecutors were destined for China.

 » … Xu (sometimes) repackaged the turtles and shipped them directly to China, concealing the wildlife in snow boots, » the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Tuesday.

In once case, Xu taped 51 live turtles inside his pants and passed though Customs into Canada.

« Finally, on the day of Xu’s arrest, he packaged over 1000 turtles into suitcases that he sent with a runner he had hired to fly directly from Detroit to Shanghai, » the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. « The turtles were recovered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agents. They had been packaged into boots and cereal boxes and concealed within luggage. »

In at least once of the instances, Xu received a box from Semmes, Ala. at a UPS Store in Warren. A worker there contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Kenneth D. Adams to notify him of the strange box with no air holes labelled, « live fish, keep cool. »

It was addressed to Xu and contained a variety of North American turtle species, including Easter box turtles, red-eared sliders and Diamondback Terrapins.

Xu pleaded guilty to six counts of smuggling turtles, violations of the Canadian citizen pleaded guilty today to six counts of smuggling turtles, some Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora laws.

Each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing is scheduled for April 12.