Canadian Student Caught Smuggling 51 Live Turtles in His Pants Pleads Guilty in Michigan

A customs officer holds a seized red-eared slider turtle at the Anna international airport in the southern Indian city of Chennai September 13, 2006. Farmed in the millions in their native Southern U.S., red-eared sliders are shipped around the world, mostly to pet stores and Asian meat markets. Babu/Reuters

A Canadian college student caught at a border checkpoint in August 2014 with 51 live turtles in his pants pleaded guilty to six smuggling charges on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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 2014 until his arrest in September 2014. Each of the six counts carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

In August 2014, Xu crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Detroit and was watched by U.S. agents as he picked up a package at a parcel center 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.

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.

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