Accused turtle smuggler charged – Hawaii News –

Federal authorities have charged a Japanese citizen with smuggling after customs inspectors at Honolulu airport allegedly found 42 exotic turtles in his suitcase Monday.

Hiroki Uetsuki was arraigned in U.S. District Court Tuesday on charges that he tried to smuggle the turtles through customs after arriving on a flight from Japan, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady said.

“The interception at the airport in Honolulu is due to the continued diligence of the inspectors,” said George Phocas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service resident agent in charge. “It’s about protecting our environment.”

Uetsuki allegedly tried to bring in three turtle species: the Indian star tortoise, white-fronted box turtle and fly river turtle.

The white-fronted box turtle has been restricted for private and commercial import to Hawaii and must be cleared with the state. All turtles or tortoises must also be approved by the state Department of Agriculture before they can be brought into the islands.