A Canadian man caught with dozens of turtles inside his pants is getting snapped by the U.S. justice system.

Kai Xu has pleaded guilty to smuggling or attempting to smuggle thousands of turtles from southeastern Michigan.

He was caught last year at a border crossing with 51 snappers taped to his body.

Xu ordered turtles online and would travel to the U.S. to ship them to China or return with them to Canada.

The 27-year-old pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Ann Arbor, Mich.

It's illegal to export wildlife from the U.S. without a license from the government. Xu faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

According to American court documents, officers with the Canada Border Services Agency intercepted Xu last August as he attempted to cross into Windsor, Ont., from Detroit.

Xu was found to have 41 live turtles strapped to his legs and 10 hidden between his legs, according to an affidavit from a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which outlined the criminal complaint.

Canadian authorities seized the turtles, which included North American varieties such as eastern box turtles, red-eared sliders and diamondback terrapins — some of which sell for $800 US each — and turned them over to American officials.

The investigation had started after a courier company in Detroit tipped the wildlife service to a package that had been shipped from Alabama addressed to Xu.

According to the court documents, agents watched as Xu allegedly opened various boxes in the rear of his SUV, took out several round clear plastic containers, and placed their contents into plastic baggies. He also had packaging tape and scissors.

"Special Agent (James) Fuller noticed irregularly shaped bulges under Xu's sweatpants on both his legs," the document states.

Xu then drove toward Windsor, where he was stopped and the turtles found during a secondary inspection.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated Kai Xu was a student at the University of Waterloo. In fact, he is not.
    Dec 01, 2015 5:18 PM ET