FILE - This March 11, 2009 file photo shows a spotted turtle at Region 8 DEC headquarters in Avon, N.Y.
FILE - This March 11, 2009 file photo shows a spotted turtle at Region 8 DEC headquarters in Avon, N.Y.

Two Chinese flight attendants have been ordered to pay large fines and leave the United States for trying to smuggle protected box and spotted turtles out of the country.

Huaqian Qu and Renfeng Gao, who work for China Eastern Airlines, pleaded guilty last month.

Prosecutors had argued for 10-month prison terms. But a federal judge in Los Angeles on Monday rejected that recommendation, noting that the defendants did not commit a "violent" crime and that they have been cooperative.

They were each fined $5,500 and ordered to leave the U.S. within three days.

Agents arrested Qu and Gao in May as they attempted to smuggle 45 turtles in their luggage. Two of the reptiles died and two others were sickened by their ordeal.

Investigators suspect Qu and Gao planned to sell the turtles in China, where they are prized for their declarative spotted shells.

Spotted and box turtles are protected by an international wildlife treaty.