Louisiana Man Pleads Guilty to Trafficking Protected Birds
A Louisiana resident and owner of a freight forwarding company pleaded guilty today in federal court in the Eastern District of Louisiana to trafficking exotic birds that are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Paul Tallman of Kenner, Louisiana, owner of Aerotyme-Inc., pleaded to the charges, which stemmed from a scheme by codefendant William McGinness to ship birds from California to the Port of New Orleans for export to Taiwan. This scheme sought to avoid a 2015 Taiwanese ban on the import of all California birds due to the risk of highly pathogenic avian flu. The shipment contained 86 birds, including three falsely labeled macaws.
“This illegal scheme flouted federal and international laws meant to protect exotic birds from exploitation as well as international efforts to contain infectious disease,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This case shows well how federal law enforcement protects our nation’s resources, its biodiversity, and the public’s health from criminal enterprises.”
On Dec. 11, 2019, McGinness pleaded guilty to conspiracy to smuggle and make false statements in violation of the Lacey Act, as well as a false statement charge. Another codefendant, Rene Rizal, also pleaded guilty to a false statement charge.
McGinness had Tallman and Rizal create and certify false paperwork to facilitate the shipment of the birds from New Orleans. McGinness trucked the birds from California to Aerotyme Inc. in Kenner, Louisiana, where he and Tallman submitted false paperwork, including a veterinary health certificate certifying that the birds were disease free, to agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal law enforcement officers seized 14 birds prior to export.
Codefendants Wayne Andrews, a bird breeder, and Alex Madriaga, a veterinarian, both from California, previously pleaded guilty to creating false documents to facilitate McGiness’ plan to transport the birds from California to Louisiana. Andrews’ and Madriaga’s sentencings are scheduled for Jan. 15, 2020. Rizal’s, McGinness’ and Tallman’s sentencings are scheduled for March 4, 2020.
The maximum sentence for Tallman is one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The maximum sentence for McGinness and Rizal is five years in prison, three years of post-release supervision, and a fine of up to $250,000. Andrews and Madriaga face a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement investigated this case. Trial Attorney Mary Dee Carraway of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Missy Bucher of the Eastern District of Louisiana are prosecuting the case.