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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 18, 2018

Florida Couple Pleads Guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court to Smuggling Protected Lovebirds

Defendants Imported Fischer Lovebirds, Protected Under the Endangered Species Act, Falsely Claiming the Shipment Contained Rosey-Faced Lovebirds

Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Robert Burgos and Vanessa Burgos pleaded guilty to an illegal importation of wildlife conspiracy stemming from a scheme to illegally import a dozen Fischer Lovebirds from Indonesia and elsewhere into the United States without a required permit, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.  Today’s proceeding took place before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Edward Grace, Acting Chief of Law Enforcement, United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), announced the guilty pleas.

Fischer Lovebirds, also known as Agapornis fischeri, are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty that protects wildlife that may become endangered due to the demands of international markets.  As a result, Fischer Lovebirds may be imported into the United States from a foreign country only if the importer possesses a valid CITES export or re-export permit from the foreign country of origin.

As detailed in court filings, in late June 2015, a shipment of Fischer Lovebirds, arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, from Madrid, Spain, falsely labelled as Rosy-Faced Lovebirds (or Agapornis roseicollis), which are not CITES-protected.  The shipment was imported by Aviary La Familia, Inc., a Florida-based company operated by the defendants, who are married.  During the time that the shipment was held at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) quarantine center in New York, the USDA sent photographs of the lovebirds to a forensic ornithologist at the FWS National Forensics Laboratory, who confirmed that the lovebirds were not Rosy-Faced Lovebirds, but were, in fact, Fischer Lovebirds.

When sentenced, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Alicia N. Washington.

The Defendants:

ROBERT BURGOS
Age: 43
Residence: Avon Park, Florida

VANESSA BURGOS
Age: 33
Residence: Avon Park, Florida

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-329 (FB)

Topic(s): 
Wildlife
Contact: 
John Marzulli Tyler Daniels United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6323
Updated January 18, 2018