Long Island Man Pleads Guilty to Capturing and Killing Federally Protected Hawks in Stamford
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Honora Gordon, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, announced that THOMAS KAPUSTA, 63, of Westbury, N.Y., pleaded guilty today in Hartford federal court to one count of conspiracy to take, capture and kill red-tailed hawks and Cooper’s hawks, and four counts of taking, capturing and killing red-tailed hawks or Cooper’s hawks.
According to court documents and statements made in court, red-tailed hawks and Cooper’s hawks are birds of prey, also known as raptors, and consume pigeons as part of their natural diet. These hawks are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
In pleading guilty, KAPUSTA admitted that he and another individual were racing pigeon enthusiasts who constructed and maintained a pigeon coop at 330 Weed Avenue in Stamford. KAPUSTA and his associate kept a large number of racing pigeons at this coop, and regularly let them fly outside the coop for exercise. Because KAPUSTA and his associate viewed these hawks as a threat to their pigeons, they systematically captured the hawks in a trap specifically designed to capture birds of prey, shot and killed them in the trap, and disposed of their carcasses. KAPUSTA admitted that he and his associate killed red-tailed hawks on September 8 and October 14, 2015, and Cooper’s hawks on September 2 and October 21, 2015.
“Red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks are protected species under federal law,” said U.S. Attorney Daly. “With our law enforcement partners, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals who violate the law and harm such protected migratory birds.”
“We greatly appreciate our state and local partners in law enforcement, and the support of the U.S. Attorney's Office in prosecuting those who violate federal wildlife laws and holding them accountable for their actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Gordon. “The plea agreement today is a success in our collective efforts to conserve migratory birds and other wildlife.”
KAPUSTA is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on May 13, 2016. He faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 months and a fine of up to $75,000.
This matter is being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Division of Refuge Law Enforcement, and the Environmental Conservation Police of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, with the assistance of the Stamford Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Chen.