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Press Release

Florida Man Found Guilty of Trafficking Migratory Birds After Five Others Sentenced

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A federal jury in the Middle District of Florida last week convicted a Florida man of three counts of trafficking migratory birds.

Ernesto Gonzalez Campos is the most recent conviction in “Operation Ornery Birds II,” which has resulted in five other defendants being sentenced in the Middle District of Florida. Operation Ornery Birds II was a Florida-wide investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Picture of a painted bunting, presented at trial
Painted bunting, Exhibit 36 in case 8:22-cr-00287.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Campos, 36, of Brandon, Florida, had engaged in the ongoing capture, sale and trade of protected migratory songbirds. On at least three occasions in 2020 and 2021, Campos sold and traded indigo buntings, painted buntings, rose-breasted grosbeaks and blue grosbeaks, all of which are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Campos trapped the birds from the wild, and once they were tamed, was able to sell them within the songbird community.

Prior to Campos’ conviction, five other Florida individuals pleaded guilty and were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tampa. The defendants admitted to buying, selling or bartering a variety of MBTA-protected birds, all highly prized for their colorful plumage and singing abilities. The defendants acquired the protected wildlife through a variety of means, including the employment of baited bird traps and the barter, purchase and sale of specimens among like-minded individuals in person and internet sales sites frequented by traffickers. The following individuals were sentenced:

  • Jorge Luis Mena Graveram Sr., 59, of St. Petersburg, was sentenced on Aug. 8 to time served, one year of supervised release and a $200 fine.
  • Eliernesto Baez Garcia, 29, of St. Petersburg, was sentenced on Aug. 14 to time served, one year of supervised release and a $200 fine.
  • Ariam Rodriguez Diaz, 32, of Ocala, was sentenced on Aug. 18 to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine.
  • Jorge Alberto Gonzalez-Gonzalez, 57, of Tampa, was sentenced on Sept. 6 to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine.
  • Adrian Michel Ortega Rodriguez, 42, of Tampa, was sentenced on Sept. 11 to one year of probation and a $500 fine.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida, Assistant Director Edward Grace of the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement and Lt. Col. Randy Bowlin of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission made the announcement.

The USFWS and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ilyssa M. Spergel for the Middle District of Florida prosecuted the above defendants. Assistant U.S. Attorney Spergel and Senior Trial Attorney Patrick M. Duggan of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case against Campos.

Updated December 7, 2023

Topic
Environment
Press Release Number: 23-1387