Fish and Wildlife Service Take Down Louisiana Individuals Trafficking Protected Birds
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Office of Law Enforcement arrested three individuals for various roles in a scheme to traffic exotic birds from California to Taiwan in violation of their protective status under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Special of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Paul Tallman of Kenner, Louisiana pleaded guilty to charges relating to a scheme with codefendant William McGinness to ship birds from California to the Post of New Orleans for export to Taiwan. The scheme sought to avoid a 2015 Taiwanese ban on the import of all California birds due to the risk of highly pathogenic avian flu.
The shipment McGinness and Tallman attempted to move included 86 birds, including three falsely labeled as macaws.
On December 11, 2019, McGinness pled guilty to conspiracy to smuggle and make false statements in violation of the Lacey Act. Another codefendant, Rene Rizal, also pled guilty to a false statement charge.
According to the Justice Department, McGinness had Tallman and Rizal create and certify false paperwork to facilitate the shipment. McGinness trucked the birds from California to Aerotyme Inc. in Kenner, Louisiana, where he and Tallman submitted false paperwork, including a veterinary health certificate certifying that the birds were disease free, according to agents of the FWS.
Federal law enforcement officers seized 14 birds before they could be exported to Taiwan.
Two additional codefendants, Wayne Andrews, a bird breeder, and Alex Madriaga, a veterinarian, previously pled guilty to creating false documents to facilitate McGiness’ plan to transport the birds.
“This illegal scheme flouted federal and international laws meant to protect exotic birds from exploitation as well as international efforts to contain infectious disease,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This case shows well how federal law enforcement protects our nation’s resources, its biodiversity, and the public’s health from criminal enterprises.”
Andrews’ and Madriaga’s sentencings are scheduled for Jan. 15, 2020. Rizal’s, McGinness’ and Tallman’s sentencings are scheduled for March 4, 2020.
The maximum sentence for Tallman is one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The maximum sentence for McGinness and Rizal is five years in prison, three years of post-release supervision, and a fine of up to $250,000. Andrews and Madriaga face a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
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