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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Montana

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Steven Patrick Garcia, Jr. Sentenced In U.S. District Court

The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on June 6, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, STEVEN PATRICK GARCIA, JR., a 36-year-old resident of San Jose, California, appeared for sentencing. GARCIA was sentenced to a term of:

Prison: 24 months

Special Assessment: $200

Restitution: to be determined

Supervised Release: 3 years

GARCIA was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to trafficking in eagle/hawk feathers.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Georgiann G. Cerese, Senior Trial Attorney for the United States Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark S. Smith, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

GARCIA maintained an account with MySpace beginning in early 2006. In November and December 2008, GARCIA communicated with an individual in California via MySpace, and later sold the individual hawk feathers for $200 and a golden eagle feather for $25. Within a November 30, 2008 MySpace message, GARCIA provided a P.O. Box in Lame Deer as the location to send payment for these feathers.

Western Union records show a $225 payment from the California purchaser to GARCIA on December 1, 2008. GARCIA provided the tracking number for the package of feathers in a MySpace message on December 2, 2008. The California purchaser was interviewed by a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Special Agent, and voluntarily abandoned the hawk feathers sold by GARCIA. The hawk feathers were forensically identified as twelve tail feathers of either ferruginous hawk or red-tailed hawk.

In January 2009, an undercover Fish & Wildlife Service Special Agent ("SA") sent GARCIA a MySpace friend request. GARCIA responded, ". . . When you add me, check out what I have in stock now. . ." The SA observed approximately seventy photographs of migratory birds on GARCIA's MySpace. Most of the feathers were un-worked tail feathers and included feathers of bald eagles, golden eagles, ferruginous hawks, rough-legged hawks and northern flickers.

On January 27, 2009, the SA inquired with GARCIA about a rough-legged hawk tail and a bald eagle tail on GARCIA's MySpace page. GARCIA replied that the "bald is gone" and gave a price of $100 for the rough-legged hawk.

On January 28, 2009, the SA asked if GARCIA had any other bald eagle tails available and asked about prices for hawks. GARCIA provided prices for ferruginous and rough-legged hawk tails, and said that "BE tails or wings are on there [sic] way." The SA wrote that he wanted to purchase "ferruginous tail number 2 for 150" and "winterhawk tail number 8 for 100." Rough-legged hawks are commonly called winterhawks. GARCIA agreed to sell the two hawk tails for $250 and suggested that they "wait till I get a baldie in before I take any funds . . . I have one now just haven't cleaned it up yet . . . SO I'll let you know by this weekend so I can clean it and see if it's worthy of selling . . ." GARCIA wrote "My assasins [sic] thank you. They are using the money to pay for graduation stuff and what not . . ." The SA mailed a money order to GARCIA in Lame Deer on January 30, 2009. On February 7, 2009, the SA received twelve ferruginous hawk and twelve rough-legged hawk tail feathers.

On February 18, 2009, GARCIA made the following offers to sell to the SA: "the first set of golden wings is 400," "the all white tail 350," "the bald set of wings is 300. . ." GARCIA also stated ". . . [t]he winter season is over so the birds will not be coming in to [sic] regularly . . . everyone is holding on to the secret stash box to charge high prices this pow wow season . . ." The SA replied that he would take the "first set of golden wings" for $400. On February 18, 2009, GARCIA stated that he "just made a call to my assasins [sic] from up north and they are going to see what they can find for me . . ." GARCIA provided his P.O. Box number in Lame Deer, and the SA mailed a money order to GARCIA on February 19, 2009.

On February 28, 2009, the SA received golden eagle wing feathers (one set of two wings) which he had purchased from GARCIA for $400. The feathers were later forensically identified as wing feathers of a subadult golden eagle.

GARCIA was interviewed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agents on March 11, 2009. During the interview, GARCIA acknowledged he could not legally possess feathers because he was not an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe. GARCIA had known for fifteen years that it was illegal to sell, kill and buy eagles and other birds. GARCIA had known for the past five years that it was illegal to trade eagles and other birds.

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." U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana, Michael W. Cotter.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that GARCIA will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, GARCIA does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Updated January 14, 2015