How many turtles could you conceal on your person and still feel comfortable while crossing an international border?
For 27-year-old Kai Xu, the answer was 51.
The Canadian national has pled guilty to attempting to smuggle over 1,000 turtles from southeastern Michigan to either China or Ontario, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Xu would typically order the turtles online, travel to the U.S. to pick them up, and either return to Canada or ship them to China. Xu “regularly deals in turtle shipments worth $30,000, $80,000 or $125,000,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said in a court filing, according to the Associated Press. “In China, the turtles he smuggles are worth two to three times the amount he pays here.”
Last August, Xu was stopped with 41 live turtles strapped to his body and a further 10 “hidden between his legs,” according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife. (They did not specify how he accomplished either of those tasks.)
A courier company in Detroit tipped Fish and Wildlife officials, who alerted Canada’s Border Services Agency. Court documents state that agents witnessed Xu open various boxes in his SUV at the border, remove several plastic containers and place their contents into plastic baggies. He apparently also had packaging tape and scissors, and one of the agents “noticed irregularly shaped bulges under Xu’s sweatpants on both his legs.”
So future smugglers: 51 live turtles hidden on or about your person is the number to beat. 51. Good luck!