Prosecutors in Michigan are seeking a five-year prison sentence for a Canadian man who says he smuggled more than 1,000 turtles to China to help pay for his college education.

Kai Xu is returning to Ann Arbor federal court Tuesday. He has pleaded guilty and says his crime was a "shameful" effort to relieve the financial burden on his parents.

In 2014, he was caught at the Ontario, Canada, border with 51 turtles taped to his legs. The government says he shipped turtles to China from Canada and the U.S., or hired someone to fly to China from the U.S. with turtles in luggage.

Xu has been in custody for 19 months and hopes to avoid more time behind bars. He was a student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.