On any given day, the sprawling Los Angeles International Airport known as LAX can be a zoo, locked in a frenetic pace, passengers coming and going. And then on certain days, it really, really is a zoo.
Over the past few years alone, federal law enforcement authorities have nabbed people trying to illegally smuggle in everything from lizards to songbirds. They’ve used money belts and snack boxes. One woman faked a pregnancy to smuggle a pet monkey from Thailand.
The latest incident came Friday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service busted two Japanese men at LAX. The suspects allegedly hid 55 live turtles and tortoises in snack-food boxes packed in luggage. The turtles were all protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.
Authorities charged Atsushi Yamagami, 39, and Norihide Ushirozako, 49, of Osaka, Japan, with illegally importing wildlife into the U.S. and violating the Endangered Species Act. The two men have been detained pending a Jan. 31 arraignment.
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