updated 1/10/2011 8:30:14 PM ET 2011-01-11T01:30:14

Two men from Japan have been arrested on charges that they hid more than 50 live turtles and tortoises in snack food boxes to smuggle them into the United States.

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The U.S. attorney's office said Monday that Atsushi Yamagami and Norihide Ushirozako, both of Osaka, were arrested Friday at Los Angeles International Airport. Both men were charged with one count each of illegally importing wildlife and one count of violating the Endangered Species Act.

If convicted, they both face up to 21 years in prison. They are scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 31.

Federal prosecutors say the turtles and tortoises were hidden in snack food boxes found in a suitcase.

The arrests were tied to an undercover investigation that began last year into a smuggling operation that brought turtles into the United States.

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