Canadian man caught with 51 turtles taped to his legs pleads guilty to smuggling

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A Canadian man has pleaded guilty to smuggling or attempting to smuggle thousands of turtles from southeastern Michigan, more than a year after he was caught at a border crossing with 51 of the reptiles taped to his body.

Kai Xu ordered turtles online and would travel to the U.S. to ship them to China or return with them to Canada.

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit said Xu, a Canadian citizen, was trying to return to Windsor, Ontario,  on Aug. 5, 2014, with the live reptiles tucked in baggies around his legs.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Gavin Shire of  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the case against Xu and said there is a large demand for turtles in Asia -- and not necessarily for pets.

There's "a lot of both illegal and unregulated turtle consumption," Shire told the paper.

The 27-year-old Xu pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Ann Arbor.

It's illegal to export wildlife from the U.S. without a license from the government.

Xu faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison although his sentence likely won't be that high.