WASHINGTON – A Tuba City, Ariz., man pleaded guilty in federal court in Phoenix to illegally selling golden eagle and other migratory bird parts, a felony criminal offense, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, and John S. Leonardo, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.
According to the plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix yesterday, in January 2008, Patrick Scott, 46, used the Internet to illegally offer to sell a golden eagle fan for $950. An undercover law enforcement officer exchanged emails with Scott and ultimately agreed on a purchase price of $900. In February 2008, a second undercover law enforcement officer went to Scott’s house and bought the golden eagle fan by making an initial payment of $550 and later deposited the remainder directly into Scott’s bank account in two installments. Also according to the plea agreement, between July 2007 and February 2009, Scott sold, purchased, and/or offered to sell other migratory bird parts, from species including bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, golden eagle, crested caracara, anhinga and rough-legged hawk.
Golden eagles and other migratory birds are protected by federal laws and regulations. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is unlawful to possess, offer to sell, sell, offer to purchase or purchase any migratory bird or migratory bird part, or any product that consists, or is composed in whole or part, of any such bird or bird part. It is a federal enforcement priority to prosecute those who violate federal laws by engaging in commercial activities involving federally protected bird feathers or other bird parts. The objective of these enforcement efforts is to reduce and eliminate the unlawful taking of federally protected birds by prosecuting not only individuals who kill protected birds but also individuals who seek to profit from the commercialization of federally protected birds or their feathers or other parts. This helps to ensure that golden eagle and other bird populations remain healthy and sustainable.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate the commercial exploitation of federally protected birds, which are important not only as protected species but also as sacred elements of the religious and cultural traditions of many Native Americans,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This is why the department recently published a policy to clarify that while the possession and use of migratory bird feathers and other bird parts is permissible for religious or cultural purposes by members of federally recognized tribes, it remains illegal to buy, sell, or trade in them for compensation.”
“While we recognize, and respect, that many Indian tribes and their members use federally protected birds in the practice of their religion and in the expression of their culture,” said U.S. Attorney Leonardo, “we will hold accountable through prosecution those who seek commercial gain by selling protected birds, their feathers, or their parts.”
“Protecting our nation’s wildlife from unlawful commercial exploitation of protected U.S. Species is a high priority for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement,” said Nicholas E. Chavez, Special Agent in Charge of the Southwest Region. “This case is also an example of how working with our tribal law enforcement partners can lead to a successful outcome.”
“The Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife is committed to protecting raptors, including golden eagles. These birds are not only biologically important but are also culturally significant to the Navajo people,” said Gloria Tom, Director of the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Commercializing these birds and their parts is illegal and is detrimental to our eagle populations on the Navajo Nation. The department is committed to fostering our partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deter wildlife crimes on the Navajo Nation.”
The maximum penalties for the unlawful sale of migratory birds include two years of incarceration and a fine of $250,000. U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Steven P. Logan set Scott’s sentencing for Feb. 26, 2013.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement in coordination with the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife. The case was prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona.