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Japanese National Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Live Turtles And Tortoises

Man and accomplice smuggled 55 live turtles and tortoises into the United States

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A Japanese national who smuggled 55 live turtles and tortoises into the United States has pleaded guilty to the federal charge of smuggling live animals into the United States, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Atsushi Yamagami faces up to a maximum 20 years in prison for the single smuggling charge. He was caught at Los Angeles International Airport with the animals hidden in junk food boxes packed in a suit case. A second Japanese man, Norihide Ushirozako was also arrested along with Yamagami in January and has pleaded guilty to a single charge of smuggling. He was released August 3 after being sentenced for time served, which was seven months. He faced a maximum 20 years in prison.

The animals recovered are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which is an international treaty that countries sign in an effort to control the trade of endangered animals. Those animals that fall under the CITES treaty can be legally traded when the exporting country issues a permit.