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Snack-Packed Turtle Smugglers' Motives Unclear
"Operation Flying Turtle" got underway over a year ago, and culminated in the arrest of two men at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, who were caught smuggling 50 live turtles and tortoises into the country. However, "officials still have no idea what the men planned to do with all those tortoises," reports CBS2.
The smugglers, 39-year-old Atsushi Yamagami, and 49-year-old Norihide Ushirozako, of Osaka, Japan have been charged with "illegally importing wildlife into the United States," for which they could be sentenced to "a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison" if convicted. They also face an additional charge of "violating the Endangered Species Act," which is a misdemeanor.
People who smuggle exotic animals into the country are often "motivated solely by profit and status," says Erin L. Dean, resident agent in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.
Yamagami and Ushirozako smuggled the critters wrapped in bags and stashed inside snack boxes, according to LA Unleashed.