US Sends Japanese Turtle Smuggler to Prison

Posted April 30th, 2012 at 8:05 pm (UTC-5)
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A court in Los Angeles on Monday sentenced a Japanese man to 21 months in prison for smuggling live turtles into the United States.

Atsushi Yamagami was also ordered to pay an $18,000 fine.

He pleaded guilty to charges of hiding 55 turtles and tortoises in snack food boxes and sneaking them through the Honolulu and Los Angeles airports in suitcases.

Federal prosecutors said Yamagami led a reptile smuggling ring that dealt in chameleons, lizards and snakes to sell at pet shows — a violation of the global treaty protecting endangered species. They called the trafficking a case of animal cruelty that risked spreading salmonella across the United States.