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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Michigan

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Canadian Citizen Sentenced on Charges of Smuggling Turtles from the United States

A Canadian citizen was sentenced today to 57 months in prison as a result of pleading guilty to six counts of smuggling turtles, some of which were endangered, from the United States in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced.

McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Jill Birchell of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Kai Xu, 27, of Windsor, Ontario was sentenced today before United States District Judge John Corbett O’Meara in Ann Arbor. As part of his sentence, Judge O’Meara ordered to pay over $17,000 in restitution for the care of the turtles.

At the time of the plea hearing, Xu admitted that on six occasions in 2014 he entered the United States from Canada and traveled to Fed Ex and UPS facilities in the metro-Detroit area, where he retrieved packages that contained a variety of different species of live turtles. Xu then illegally smuggled the turtles out of the country using three methods. On some instances, Xu repackaged the turtles and shipped them directly to China, concealing the wildlife in snow boots. On one occasion, Xu taped the live turtles to his legs and groin (a total of 51 live turtles) and returned to Canada, smuggling the turtles in his pants to conceal them from customs officials. 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 turtles were recovered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agents. They had been packaged into boots and cereal boxes and concealed within luggage.

Special Agent Birchell stated, “One of our highest priorities is to investigate individuals and companies who are involved in the unlawful commercial trafficking and smuggling of our Nation's fish and wildlife. This investigation demonstrates our commitment to pursuing those who decimate wildlife populations for their unfettered greed, depriving future generations of enjoying these species in their native habitats.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Enforcement Directorate within Environment and Climate Change Canada. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations also assisted with the investigation.

Updated April 13, 2016