Pennsylvania man smuggled endangered parrots into the US

VERMONT – The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that Jafet Rodriguez, 40, of Hazleton Pennsylvania, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William K. Sessions III to a two-year term of federal supervised release. Rodriguez previously pled guilty to unlawfully smuggling six tropical birds into Vermont from Canada, in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the federal anti-smuggling statute. The Court also ordered Rodriguez to pay $1,905 to the government to cover the costs of quarantining the birds.

According to court documents, 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. The defendant retrieved a black duffle bag containing the six 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 the six tropical birds from this vehicle.

Rodriguez told law enforcement that he intended to give these birds to his mother and sister as Christmas gifts. The government questioned the credibility of that claim pointing out that these birds were collectively worth at least $10,000 and the defendant had a history of profit motivated crimes involving theft, fraud, and drug dealing.

According to court records, the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory determined that four of the birds were Yellow-headed Amazon Parrots (Amazona oratrix) and the remaining 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 birds were then transported to a zoo in North Carolina.

This matter was investigated by the U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The case was 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. The first photograph depicts Rodriguez retrieving the duffle bag from the car in Quebec just across the Derby Line, Vermont border. The last two photographs are of the Yellow-headed Amazon Parrots.