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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 14, 2020

Pennsylvania Man Charged With Smuggling Endangered Tropical Birds Into Vermont

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated Jafet Rodriguez, 39, of Hazleton Pennsylvania, has been charged with unlawfully smuggling tropical birds into Vermont from Canada, in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the federal anti-smuggling statute. 

Rodriguez appeared before United States Magistrate Judge John Conroy on February 13, 2020 and was released on personal recognizance. The next hearing in the case is a preliminary hearing scheduled for February 28, 2020. 

According to court documents, the Government alleges that on December 30, 2019, at 10:30 A.M., the defendant walked across the Canadian border near the Haskell Free Library in Derby Line, Vermont and approached a car parked in Stanstead, Quebec. According to the Government’s allegations, the defendant retrieved a black duffle bag containing the birds from the vehicle parked in Quebec and then walked back into the United States. United States Border Patrol Agents intercepted Rodriquez after he entered another vehicle (with Pennsylvania license plates) in Derby Line, Vermont. The agents recovered seven live tropical birds from this vehicle. 

According to court records, the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory determined that five of the birds were Yellow-headed Amazons (Amazona oratrix) and two birds were White-bellied Parrots (Pionites leucogaster). These birds are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (commonly referred to as “CITES”). Under the Endangered Species Act, species which are protected under CITES cannot be imported without the appropriate permits. The birds were turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and transported to the New York Animal Import Center in Rock Tavern, New York for a period of quarantine. 

The United States Attorney emphasizes that the charges contained in the Criminal Complaint are merely accusations and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If he is convicted, Rodriguez faces a maximum possible term of imprisonment of 20 years under the statute prohibiting the unlawful smuggling of merchandise into the United States. If convicted, the defendant’s actual sentence would be informed by the advisory Sentencing Guidelines. 
            
This matter is being investigated by the U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security 
Investigations with assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Perella. Rodriguez is represented by David McColgin of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Burlington, Vermont.       
    
The following photographs were contained in the Government’s Criminal Complaint Affidavit filed with the Court on January 28, 2020: 
 

Surveillance photograph of alleged taking custody of duffel bag containing birds.

Surveillance photograph of alleged taking custody of duffel bag containing birds.

4 yellow-headed amazon parrots inside an animal carrier.

4 yellow-headed amazon parrots inside an animal carrier.

Yellow-headed amazon parrot inside a cardboard box.

Yellow-headed amazon parrot inside a cardboard box.

 

Topic(s): 
Wildlife
Component(s): 
Updated February 14, 2020