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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 3, 2015

Yakama Tribal Members Sentenced and Fined for Killing Eagles

Spokane – Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Willard Phillip Maldonado and Austin Henry Phillips were sentenced in Yakima for their involvement in the commercialization of eagles. Maldonado, 41, of Union Gap, Washington, was sentenced to 9 months in custody, 6 of which will be served in home confinement. United States District Judge Salvador Mendoza also ordered Maldonado to serve a term of 3 years of supervision and to pay fines and assessments totaling $1,805. Maldonado also agreed to forfeit certain property, including firearms, a vehicle used to transport eagles, and eagle parts. Maldonado pled guilty on April 22, 2015, to six counts involving the killing and transporting of bald and golden eagles for commercial purposes and to offering eagle parts for sale in violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. § 668(a)) and the Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(1) and 3373(d)(1)(b). The offenses occurred over a period of more than three years from December of 2010 through January of 2014. The investigation revealed that Maldonado was using animal carcasses as bait to hunt eagles and was offering their feathers for sale through social media on the internet. One eagle carcass was found wearing a leg band that was later determined to have been placed on the bird by a biologist in Oregon.

Phillips, 39, of Granger, Washington, plead guilty on April 8, 2015, to a misdemeanor stemming from his killing of a bald eagle on January 17, 2014, while hunting with Maldonado. Phillips was sentenced to 3 years of supervised probation with 30 days in home confinement. As a condition of his probation, he will not be allowed to hunt outside of the Yakama Indian Reservation.

As members of the Yakama Indian Tribe, both Maldonado and Phillips 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 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for that purpose. However, it is unlawful for anyone to offer eagle feathers for sale or to sell eagle feathers.

The investigation identified people around the country and in Canada who responded to solicitations made by Maldonado. The investigation is one of a number of similar investigations in recent years that have led to convictions of Yakama tribal members, including United States v. Hawk, 09-CR-02034-001; United States v. Wahchumwah, 09-CR-02035-001; and United States v. Arquette, 14-CR-02057.

Michael C. Ormsby said, “The eagle is our country’s national symbol and is a national treasure. Importantly, it is an important and valuable resource evidenced in part by Congress’ enactment of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The eagle also has cultural and religious significance to Native Americans and it is important to protect eagles as part of Native American heritage. The United States Attorney’s Office, together with its law enforcement partners, will continue to investigate and prosecute aggressively those individuals who wantonly choose to violate these statutes.”

This investigation was conducted by agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Yakama tribal authorities. The case was prosecuted by Timothy J. Ohms, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

Press Release Number: 
14-CR-2065-SMJ
Updated August 3, 2015