Japanese man sentenced in LA turtle smuggling case

CREATED Apr. 30, 2012

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A Japanese man has been sentenced in Los Angeles to nearly two years in prison for smuggling 55 live turtles and tortoises from his country into the United States by hiding them in snack food boxes.

Atsushi Yamagami was sentenced Monday to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay about $18,000 in fines. He pleaded guilty in August to one felony count of smuggling.

Yamagami and Norihide Ushirozako were arrested in January 2011 at Los Angeles International Airport as part of an undercover investigation called Operation Flying Turtle.
 
Federal prosecutors say the turtles and tortoises were hidden in snack food boxes found in a suitcase.
 
The animals are protected by an international endangered species agreement and can only be imported with a permit.