LOS ANGELES — On May 2, federal agents arrested a male U.S. citizen, resident of Fountain Valley after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers and Agriculture Specialists discovered 50 live birds, and 43 dead birds concealed in his luggage when he arrived to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from Ho Chi Minh City on March 24. Soon after the seizure, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) confirmed that only eight birds survived.
The suspect was arrested after FWS investigators determined that some of the birds were endangered species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The suspect is charged with smuggling goods into the United States, a felony offense that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
“CBP works closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service to make wildlife traffickers accountable for all violations of law. In this case, CBP’s unwavering commitment and proactive partnership actions with FWS investigators resulted in a decisive federal criminal complaint that led to the arrest and arraignment of the suspect,” said Carlos C. Martel, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles.
CBP Officers referred the male passenger arriving from Vietnam for a routine agricultural inspection. During an X-ray screening of the passenger’s belongings, CBP Agriculture Specialists detected anomalies inside the baggage. Further inspection revealed numerous live birds concealed within the bags. Agents with the FWS were contacted and the birds were immediately placed into quarantine.
“I would like to commend the diligence and vigilance of our CBP Officers and Agriculture Specialists. Smuggling birds is especially dangerous due to the potential for exposure to the highly pathogenic avian influenza,” said Mitchell Merriam, Los Angeles Area Port Director. “It is the inter-agency partnership between CBP and FWS that helps counter and combat illegal wildlife trafficking.”
“Importing certain illegal wildlife, such as these avian species, can not only introduce communicable animal diseases into the United States, but they can also pose a threat to our local ecosystem,” said Jill Birchell, FWS Special Agent in Charge
The suspect appeared before the judge yesterday and was released on bond. His next scheduled appearance is June 5. For more information contact Thom Mrozek at the United States Attorney’s Office, email@example.com
CBP is responsible for inspecting all arriving and departing international passengers, and international mail to include conducting searches for narcotics, weapons, currency, agriculture, and other prohibited or illicit products.