Edgewood Man Pleads Guilty to Violating Federal Wildlife Laws Prohibiting Sale of Eagle Feathers
ALBUQUERQUE – Dale N. Smith, 60, of Edgewood, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by selling or offering to sell Bald Eagle feathers.
Smith was arrested on April 10, 2014, on a criminal complaint charging him with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Lacey Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act in March 2014, in Santa Fe County, N.M. Smith was indicted on May 7, 2014, and charged with three counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and one count of violating the Lacey Act.
Smith, a member of the Lakota/Sioux Tribe of the Hunkpapa Band of Lakota, was charged as the result of an undercover investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that began on March 7, 2014, and concluded with Smith’s arrest on April 10, 2014. The investigation was initiated after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received information that Smith had posted on an Internet website photographs of Indian arts and crafts which appeared to include federally protected feathers.
On March 7, 2014, an undercover agent contacted Smith and inquired about the feathers on one particular piece of art. Smith responded that the feathers were Bald Eagle feathers and offered to sell the artwork for $1,000. On March 20, 2014, Smith sold a feather fan containing Bald Eagle feathers and a medicine wheel containing Bald Eagle feathers to the undercover agent for $1,000. On March 20, 2014 and again on March 24, 2014, Smith offered to sell a headdress with bald eagle feathers to the undercover agent for $2,000.
Today, Smith pled guilty to one count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and admitted selling a feather fan with Bald Eagle feathers to an undercover agent on March 20, 2014. In his plea agreement, Smith acknowledged that the Bald Eagle qualifies as a migratory bird and that he violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when he sold the Bald Eagle feather fan to the undercover agent.
At sentencing, Smith faces a maximum statutory penalty of two years in prison to be followed by a term of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Smith remains on conditions of release pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
Bald Eagles are amongst more than 1000 wild birds protected under the federal wildlife laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Lacey Act. Among other things, these laws prohibit the possession, use, and sale of the feathers or other parts of federally protected birds, as well as the unauthorized killing of these birds, to help ensure that the Eagle and other bird populations remain healthy and sustainable.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers and was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement with assistance from the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the U. S. Marshals Service, and Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. It is both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for its scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on its work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow its tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch its YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from its Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.