Here’s more news from DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. This time it’s bird feather trafficking via the internet.

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alabama Man Pleads Guilty to Selling Anhinga Feathers

WASHINGTON – An Alabama man pleaded guilty in federal court Feb. 15 to violating the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for illegally selling and possessing the feathers of anhingas and other migratory birds protected under the MBTA.

Alexander D. Alvarez, of Atmore, was charged by criminal information with one felony Lacey Act violation, one felony MBTA violation and one misdemeanor MBTA violation. Sentencing is scheduled for May.

According to court documents, Alvarez communicated via email with an person in Louisiana and eventually exchanged two anhinga tails that Alvarez possessed for a crested caracara tail, a Harris’s hawk tail and $400, which the individual possessed. Alvarez later sent 14 sets of anhinga tail feathers to this individual and asked the individual to photograph and offer the tails for sale via email. Alvarez received payment from the Louisiana individual for the anhinga tail feathers that were sold. A federal search warrant was executed at Alvarez’s home on March 11, 2009, and feathers from several migratory bird species were seized.

Under the MBTA, the Secretary of the Interior maintains a list of migratory birds which are protected from, among other things, being killed, sold, bartered, transported or possessed, except as otherwise permitted by federal regulation. Enrolled members of federally-recognized American Indian tribes may possess eagle and other migratory bird feathers and parts for religious and ceremonial purposes, but federal law strictly prohibits the sale of migratory birds, feathers or their parts by any person. Alvarez is not an enrolled member of a federally-recognized American Indian tribe. The Lacey Act prohibits, among other things, the sale of wildlife knowing that the wildlife was taken or possessed in violation of any federal wildlife-related regulation or law.

“Mr. Alvarez sought to profit from selling protected bird feathers he had no legal right to possess,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

This case resulted from an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement into the illegal commercialization of eagles and other migratory birds protected by federal law. The investigation was jointly conducted with the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife.