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US Gives Canadian Turtle Smuggler 5 Years in Prison

A smuggled turtle is seen next to a ruler in this photo provided by the U.S. attorney's office. A Canadian man was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison April 12, 2016, for smuggling turtles into his native China.

A U.S. federal judge sentenced a Canadian man to almost five years in prison for scheming to smuggle thousands of turtles to his native China.

Federal agents arrested Kai Xu in 2014 at the U.S.-Canadian border with 51 live turtles hidden under his pants, taped to his legs.

Before he was sentenced Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Xu thanked the federal agents for putting an end to what he called "the darkness of greed and ignorance." The 27-year-old has already served 19 months.

Xu shipped the reptiles to China from the U.S. or Canada, or paid people to smuggle them in their luggage.

He told the judge he needed the money to finish school. His lawyer hoped for a lighter sentence, saying Xu was not a "sophisticated international dealer."

Turtles are highly desired in China as pets.