Man Who Smuggled 55 Live Turtles & Tortoises in Snack Food Boxes Gets Prison Time
The man who tried to sneak 55 live turtles and tortoises packed in snack food boxes into the U.S. via Los Angeles International Airport last year will now get to pack himself into a federal prison cell.
Japanese national Atsushi Yamagami, 39, was sentenced to serve 21 months, and ordered to pay a $18,403 criminal fine, according to the Department of Justice.
Yamagami, described in court documents as "a major wildlife trafficker," pleaded guilty in August 2011 for his January 2011 crime. Many of the live reptiles Yamagami attempted to smuggle into America were species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international treaty that protects species being threatened by international trade. Additionally, putting the turtles and tortoises in snack food boxes constituted animal cruelty, argued federal prosecutors.
The smuggler was busted as part of something nicknamed 'Operation Flying Turtle,' an undercover sting run by agents with the Fish and Wildlife Service who infiltrated a smuggling ring.