OTTAWA : A Canadian has been caught at the US-Canada border with 51 live turtles stuffed in his pants in what American authorities claimed was an elaborate reptile smuggling operation.

The scheme was uncovered last month but was only revealed this week in US federal court documents cited in a Friday report by the Toronto Globe and Mail.

According to the newspaper, Canadian border officials arrested Kai Xu as he tried to cross into Windsor, Ontario from Detroit, Michigan in August, and handed him over to US authorities.

“Xu was found to have 51 live turtles taped to his person,” a US Fish and Wildlife Service said in an affidavit cited by the Globe and Mail. The seized turtles were North American varieties including eastern box turtles, red-eared sliders and diamondback terrapins that sell for as much as $800.

A second Canadian, Lihua Lin, was arrested on Wednesday at the Detroit airport, bound for Shanghai with more than 200 North American pond turtles in his checked luggage. He had been dropped off at the airport by Xu.

Xu and Lin have been charged with smuggling and other related offenses, and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.