WASHINGTON – Jeffrey Andrew Diaz, operator of a bird abatement business which uses captive raptors to scare nuisance birds from client sites, was sentenced to prison yesterday in the Northern District of California for smuggling Eurasian Eagle Owl eggs into the United States from Austria.
Diaz pleaded guilty on Nov. 28, 2006, to two counts of smuggling and two counts of making false statements on customs declarations. According to court documents filed by the prosecution, in March and April 2005, Diaz made two trips from Austria to the United States, during which he smuggled a total of 12 Eurasian Eagle Owl eggs into the country by concealing them in Easter baskets and failing to declare them to customs officials.
On June 25, 2007, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel sentenced Diaz to 21 months in prison, a $5,000 fine, three years of supervised release, a $400 special assessment, and a prohibition during the period of supervised release on contact with any bird requiring a permit, including raptors. The sentence reflected an enhancement for obstruction of justice, as well as the market value of the eggs, which Judge Patel found to be between $10,000 and $30,000.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is also protected by the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992, a federal wildlife statute which includes various measures to conserve exotic avian species and fulfill United States treaty obligations under CITES.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Michael Nerney of the Northern District of California and Robert S. Anderson of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.