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Turtle Smuggler Busted at LAX Sentenced: Atsushi Yamagami Gets 21 Months

Turtle Smuggler Busted at LAX Sentenced: Atsushi Yamagami Gets 21 Months
hamdh ahmed

Atsushi Yamagami had quite an import-export business going, according to federal authorities.

Not only did he bring protected tortoises into the United States for sale, but he used that cash to export snakes, turtles and tortoises native to America back to Japan, they said.

Savvy, yes, except he was caught, and now Yamagami will spend ...

... 21 months in federal prison for illicit animal smuggling, the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. announced today.

This after he was caught in January, 2011 with 55 live turtles and tortoises at LAX: They were "concealed" in "snack food boxes," according to a U.S. Attorney's Office statement. The animals were from Japan.

Unfortunately for Yamagami, the critters were protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty. Oops.

The 39-year-old from Osaka was also ordered to pay a $18,403 fine.

Federal prosecutors said Yamagami and "his couriers" had quite an operation going, making 42 trips between the United States and Japan between 2004 and 2011.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office:

After the animals were smuggled into the United States, Yamagami sold or traded them at reptile pet shows across the United States, and he used the proceeds to purchase snakes, turtles and tortoises native to North America. The animals acquired in the United States were smuggled by Yamagami and his couriers back to Japan for resale in the pet trade.

Two of his couriers, Norihide Ushirozako and Hiroki Uetsuki, were successfully prosecuted last year, feds say.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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