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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Yakama Tribal Member Sentenced for Selling Eagle Feathers

Spokane – Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Benjamin Blue Arquette, age 25, was sentenced following his entry of a guilty plea earlier this year to one count of Commercializing in Eagles in violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. § 668(a)). A first offense of Commercializing in Eagles is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. Senior District Court Judge William Fremming Nielsen sentenced Arquette to 30 days in jail to be followed by one year of court supervision following his release from incarceration.

On January 12, 2015, Arquette admitted to selling tail feathers from two golden eagles to an undercover officer working with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. As part of his plea agreement, Arquette admitted telling the officer that he took the eagles while hunting when he came upon a location where someone had been shooting wild horses. Arquette arranged the sale for $1,200 through telephonic and email contacts. As a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation, Arquette can lawfully possess eagle feathers for non-commercial purposes. All members of federally recognized Indian tribes can obtain eagle feathers from a national repository maintained by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for that purpose. However, it is unlawful for anyone to offer eagle feathers for sale or to sell eagle feathers.

Michael C. Ormsby stated, “Arquette’s guilty plea and sentence added to a growing list of cases involving the commercialization of eagles in the Eastern District of Washington. Similar investigations in recent years have led to convictions in United States v. Maldonado, 14-CR-2065-SMJ, which is scheduled for sentencing on July 29, 2015; United States v. Hawk, 09-CR-02034-001; and United States v. Wahchumwah, 09-CR-02035-001. The United States Attorney’s Office has, and will continue to support the efforts of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.”

This case was investigated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service with participation from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Washington State Gambling Commission, and the Yakama Nation Tribal Police. The case was prosecuted by Timothy J. Ohms, an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Washington.

Press Release Number: 
14-CR-02057-WFN
Updated May 20, 2015