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Steven Patrick Garcia, Jr., 36, of San Jose, Calif., was sentenced today in federal court in Billings, Mont., to 24 months in prison to be followed by one year of supervised release for selling and offering to sell migratory bird parts in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Lacey Act, the Department of Justice announced today. Garcia had pleaded guilty to the charge on January 16, 2013.
Garcia admitted by his plea that on Dec. 2, 2008, he offered for sale and sold golden eagle and hawk feathers and that on Feb. 25, 2009, he sold golden eagle feathers knowing that those golden eagle feathers were unlawfully taken and possessed.
“The protection of Montana's wildlife, including migratory birds, is a priority of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana. Today's prosecution and sentence demonstrate that individuals that attempt to profit from the unlawful taking of golden eagles, bald eagles, hawks and all other migratory birds will be investigated, prosecuted and punished accordingly,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana, Michael W. Cotter.
Pursuant to the MBTA, the Secretary of the Interior maintains a list of migratory birds which are protected from, among other things, being killed, sold, bartered, transported or possessed, except as otherwise permitted by federal regulation. Enrolled members of federally recognized American Indian tribes may obtain permits to possess eagle and other migratory bird feathers and parts for religious and ceremonial purposes, but federal law strictly prohibits the sale of migratory birds, feathers, or their parts by any person. The Lacey Act prohibits, among other things, the sale of wildlife knowing that the wildlife was taken or possessed in violation of any federal wildlife-related regulation or law.
According to court documents, Garcia communicated via MySpace with an individual in California and sold the individual hawk feathers for $200 and a golden eagle feather for $25 in December 2008. The hawk feathers were later forensically identified as twelve tail feathers of either ferruginous or red-tailed hawk. Garcia also communicated via MySpace with an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who, at one point in time, observed approximately seventy photographs of migratory bird feathers on Garcia’s MySpace Page. The agent purchased twelve ferruginous hawk and twelve rough-legged hawk tail feathers from Garcia in February 2009 as well as one complete set of subadult golden eagle wings for $400. Approximately 146 items containing feathers representing 18 different species of migratory birds were obtained from Garcia’s home in Lame Deer, Montana in March 2009.
This case resulted from a nationwide investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement into the illegal commercialization of eagles and other migratory birds protected by federal law. The case was prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana.