News and Press Releases

Edgewood Man Charged With Violating Federal
Wildlife Laws Prohibiting Sale of Eagle Feathers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE – Dale N. Smith, 60, of Edgewood, N.M., has been charged with violating federal wildlife laws that prohibit the selling of, and offering to sell, eagle feathers in a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

Smith was arrested on April 10, 2014, and made his initial appearance in federal court in Albuquerque on April 11, 2014.  During a court appearance this morning, Smith was ordered detained pending release to a half-way house under pretrial supervision when space becomes available.

The criminal complaint alleges that Smith violated 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.  According to the criminal complaint, 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 on March 7, 2014, 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. 

The criminal complaint alleges that on March 7, 2014, an undercover agent contacted Smith and inquired about the feathers on one particular piece of art.  Smith allegedly responded by telling the agent that the feathers were bald eagle feathers and offering to sell the artwork for $1,000.  On March 20, 2014, Smith allegedly sold a feather fan containing 21 bald eagle feathers and a medicine wheel containing eight bald eagle feathers to the undercover agent for $1,000.  On March 20, 2014 and again on March 24, 2014, Smith allegedly offered to sell a headdress with bald eagle feathers to the undercover agent for $2,000.

If convicted of the offenses charged in the criminal complaint, Smith faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.  Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations and all criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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 was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers and was investigated by the Office of Law Enforcement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Service 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.

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