Information from a Japanese man who pleaded guilty in October to smuggling 42 exotic turtles and tortoises into Honolulu airport has helped lead to two arrests in Los Angeles on similar charges.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said today that Atsushi Yamagami and Norihide Ushirozako, both of Osaka, were arrested Friday at Los Angeles Airport.
Both men were charged with one count of illegally importing wildlife and one count of violating the Endangered Species Act. They each face up to 21 years in prison and are to be arraigned Jan. 31.
Authorities were in part led to the men by Hiroki Uetsuki, 36, who is facing up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced next month for trying to smuggle turtles.
Federal prosecutors in Honolulu have said Uetsuki brought in 42 exotic turtles and tortoises to Honolulu Airport on Aug. 30.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady has said there were 20 fly river turtles, 20 Burmese star tortoises and two white-fronted box turtles. They were in three containers with their own temperature and moisture control devices in a suitcase. Uetsuki has agreed to forfeit the animals to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.