A Canadian man who systematically smuggled thousands of turtles from North America to China was sentenced to five years in US federal prison Tuesday.
According to the Associated Press, Xu had been smuggling turtles to China from Canada and the US, both by himself and with the help of others he had paid off. Authorities estimate that Xu may have smuggled off at least $1 million worth of turtles, based solely on the packages of turtles intercepted in the past.
Xu reportedly told US Judge John Corbett O'Meara prior to the ruling that he was sorry for what he did and that he was happy border agents stopped "the darkness of my greed and ignorance." Xu's defense attorney, Matthew Borgula, said that Xu was not a "sophisticated international dealer" and that hiding turtles in his pants was "not a good way to get them across the border."
Assistant US Attorney Sara Woodward said Xu's regret for his actions was real, but pressed for five years due to how large the smuggling operation was. O'Meara expressed sympathy for Xu—making note of his good behavior for the 19 months he was held in prison—but ultimately agreed to Woodward's sentence without explanation.
"We don't have a whole lot of cases exactly like this every day," O'Meara said.
That being said, earlier this year, an Ontario man was fined $3,500 [$2,700 USD] for smuggling 38 turtles in his pants, and placed on a two-year probation.
Xu's defense attorney called the verdict "very severe" and asked O'Meara to hear testimony on Xu's behalf. Xu and his attorney are reportedly planning to appeal the verdict.
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