We’ve all heard of ants in the pants, but turtles? Apparently, if you’re in the wildlife smuggling business, the slacks are an excellent place to hide these snapping reptiles — at least until you’re caught.
A Canadian man named Kai Xu, 27, was caught smuggling dozens of the little creatures in his pants last year, CBC reported. Some of them had even been secreted between his legs, which sounds like a rather dicey operation.
All told, the authorities found 51 turtles in his trousers, but Xu has been found guilty of smuggling thousands of the creatures to China. There, he made a pretty penny selling cute North American varieties like eastern box, red-eared sliders, and diamondback terrapins.
He was arrested last September, a month after he was found with the reptiles in his slacks. On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to smuggling charges in a federal court in Ann Arbor, Michigan, court. He’ll face sentencing next year and could spent 10 years in prison.
He’s been a guest of the federal prison system since his arrest.
Kai’s scheme went something like this: from the comfort of southeastern Michigan, he ordered turtles online and then would travel to the States in order to ship them to China. Alternately, he would take them from the U.S. then across the border to Canada.
And he made good money smuggling turtles, too, according to the Associated Press. The Chinese pay top dollar for the creatures.
“(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. “In China, the turtles he smuggles are worth two to three times the amount he pays here.”
Now, he’s admitted to smuggling or trying to smuggle more than 1,600 turtles from the U.S. between April and September, 2014. He was charged criminally for six incidents.
The jig was up when a courier company in Detroit spotted a suspicious package destined for Xu and originating in Alabama. The company called the wildlife service, but it wasn’t clear what about the package hinted that animals may have been inside.
So, federal authorities started watching the enterprising Xu in Detroit, weeks before his eventual arrest.
One day in August, Canada Border Services Agency officers watched the young man at a border crossing between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. From the rear of his SUV, he allegedly opened a bunch of boxes, removing from inside them several round, clear plastic containers. Agents said he then removed something from the containers and placed those contents into plastic baggies. He was also found with packaging tape and scissors.
A document outlining these interesting details described an agent as noticing “irregularly shaped bulges” under his sweatpants on both his legs. During a secondary inspection after he tried to return to Ontario, border authorities found the turtles he was smuggling in his pants.
A total of 51 of them were unearthed, 10 of which were snuggling between his legs. They confiscated the turtles, some of which are sold for $800 apiece, but the bust didn’t stop him.
“He did not cease smuggling turtles. He did not even slow down,” Woodward said.
In fact, on the day of his arrest a month later, he was in the process of smuggling another 1,000 turtles into suitcases he’d tasked a runner with flying to Shanghai, the New York Post added.
Since September, Kai has been in federal custody and it seems he will remain there — wearing turtle-free pants — for the near future. All that is known about Xu is that he claims to be an engineering student at the University of Waterloo, but the college said he wasn’t enrolled there.
[Photo by Seth LaGrange/Shutterstock]