Three Individuals Sentenced to Prison for Migratory Bird Trafficking
Three Miami-based wildlife traffickers were recently sentenced to prison for trapping and selling migratory birds.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Edward Grace, Acting Assistant Director of the Office of Law Enforcement, United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Region; Alfredo Escanio, Major/Regional Commander, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Division of Law Enforcement, South B Region; Martin G. Wade, Director, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations, Miami Air and Marine Branch; Pedro Ramos, Superintendent, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks (NPS); and Antonio J. Gomez, Postal Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division made the announcement.
In April of this year, law enforcement announced the filing of federal charges against six individuals, in six separate cases, for their involvement with the trafficking of over 400 migratory birds. Each of the six defendants pled guilty to various criminal offenses involving migratory birds. Three of the defendants, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, a/k/a “El Doctor,” Miguel Loureiro and Hovary Muniz were recently sentenced to prison for their crimes. The three other defendants, Corbo Martinez (Case No. 17-CR-20596-WILLIAMS), Reynaldo Mederos (Case No. 18-CR-20140-LENARD) and Carlos Hernandez (Case No. 17-CR-20759-MARTINEZ), are pending sentencing.
- United States v. Juan Carlos Rodriguez, a/k/a “El Doctor,”
Case No. 18-CR-20141-MOORE
On July 30, 2018, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, 54, of Homestead, was sentenced to six months in prison. Previously, he pled guilty to three counts of selling, offering for sale, bartering, and offering to barter migratory birds.
According to court documents, between May 2014 and November 2016, Rodriguez trafficked in migratory birds, including Puerto Rican Spindalises (Spindalis portoricensis), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), Puerto Rican Bullfinches (Loxigilla portoricensis), Yellow-faced Grassquits (Tiaris olivaceus), Blue Grosbeaks (Passerina caerulea), Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea), Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperii), Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus), Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), Painted Buntings (Passerina ciris), Summer Tanagers (Piranga rubra), Screech-Owls (genus Megascops), and Sharp-shinned Hawks (Accipiter striatus).
Rodriguez used an array of methods to trap migratory birds. Rodriguez deployed wooden-and-wire bird traps with multiple pitfall doors baited with seed and a “bait bird.” Rodriguez positioned these traps at numerous regional collection points throughout Miami-Dade County. Rodriguez employed limesticks coated in adhesive materials known as “pega” to catch particular species of birds. Rodriguez also erected ten-foot high, 100-foot long mist nets at the edge of fields during migration season. He flushed birds into the mist net by driving his truck across the field towards the nets, and, while many of the birds did not survive this process, the mist nets captured large numbers of migratory birds. Rodriguez captured these migratory birds to sell them. He sold hundreds of birds to undercover agents. After a determination that the release of the seized wildlife was safe and appropriate, USFWS released the birds into the wild. Rodriguez also shot hawks and sold their frozen corpses. In total, undercover agents purchased approximately 181 birds from Rodriguez.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the USFWS, FWC, CBP, CBP Air and Marine Operations and USPIS in this matter. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Raich.
- United States v. Miguel Loureiro,
Case No. 18-CR-20164-MARTINEZ
On August 10, 2018, Miguel Loureiro, 27, was sentenced to nine months in prison. Previously, he pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic in migratory birds.
According to court documents, beginning in January 2016 and ending in December 2017, Loureiro and a co-conspirator trafficked in migratory birds, including Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea), Blue Grosbeaks (Passerina caerulea), Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (Pheucticus ludovicianus), Painted Buntings (Passerina ciris), White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys), Clay-colored Sparrows (Spizella palida), and Grasshopper Sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum). Loureiro deployed sixteen wire and wooden bird traps augmented by solar-powered electronic birdcall broadcasting systems in order to trap migratory birds. Three of those traps were in secluded areas of forest near Everglades National Park. He sold his illegally captured migratory birds to buyers throughout the United States. During the execution of a search warrant at Loureiro’s residence, law enforcement discovered over 100 illegally-captured migratory birds in cages. After a determination that the release of the seized wildlife was safe and appropriate, USFWS returned these birds into the wild.
In the course of his migratory bird trafficking, Loureiro forcefully threw a Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) against a wall because he believed it was a threat to his inventory of migratory birds for sale. He then affixed it to a wooden cross. Loueriro filmed this activity and uploaded the images onto a private internet chat group that he used to advertise migratory birds for sale.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the USFWS, FWC, and NPS. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Raich.
- United States v. Hovary Muniz,
Case No. 18-CR-20355-UNGARO
On July 23, 2018, Hovary Muniz, 42, of Miami, was sentenced to a total of fifteen months in prison. Previously, he pled guilty to five counts of knowingly selling and offering migratory birds for sale.
According to court documents, Muniz pled guilty in 2016 to smuggling migratory birds from Cuba into the United States in a fanny pack. In 2017 and 2018, while on probation for that wildlife trafficking offense, Muniz offered Yellow-faced Grassquits (Tiaris olivacea) and other migratory birds for sale.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the USFWS and CBP in this matter. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jaime Raich and Tom Watts-FitzGerald.
The public is encouraged to report any instances of illegal wildlife trapping and trafficking to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at (305) 526-2610 or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 888-404-3922 or by email or text to Tip@MyFWC.com.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov.