SAN JUAN, PR – A federal grand jury charged three men with conspiracy to engage in the illicit trade of migratory birds; selling, offering to sell and bartering migratory birds (Migratory Bird Treaty Act); and wildlife trafficking (Lacey Act), announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The defendants were arrested on January 13, 2021 by agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.
The defendants and charges are the following:
Carlos David Flores Ríos, a.k.a. “Carlos Flores Ríos” is facing one count of conspiracy; five counts for selling, offering to sell, and bartering migratory birds, specifically short-eared owls (Asio flammeus); and one count for wildlife trafficking.
Edgardo Marín Candelaria is facing one count of conspiracy and one count for wildlife trafficking. Marín Candelaria sold two short-eared owls while knowing the owls had been taken in violation of the Migratory Bird Act.
Misael Cruz Rivera is facing one count for selling, offering to sell, and bartering migratory birds, specifically an American kestrel (Falco sparverius).
According to the indictment, the purpose of the conspiracy was for defendants to unjustly enrich themselves through the trafficking, taking, trapping, sale, and barter of migratory birds. The defendants and co-conspirators captured and possessed migratory birds; illegally held them in temporary housing; offered the birds for sale on private internet chat groups; sold the birds to local purchasers; negotiated the price of the birds, payed for, and received payments for the trafficking of migratory birds in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
“The illegal trafficking of migratory birds represents a serious threat to our ecosystems,” said U.S. Attorney Muldrow. “I commend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources for their investigation of this matter. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively prosecute those individuals who engage in the illegal sale of protected wildlife.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement actively pursues those who seek to profit from the illegal commercial exploitation of our natural resources. These criminal activities harm imperiled species and fragile ecosystems throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. We will continue to work with our partners to bring those who purposefully ignore environmental laws to justice,” said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The sellers and possible buyers of these animals know that the Federal Authorities together with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) carry out investigations on the possession and sale of these species. It is illegal, they represent a threat to flora and fauna in Puerto Rico and what is most worrying, they could even represent a danger to people’s lives. We urge citizens not to sponsor these illicit businesses, either by owning or buying them,” stated the Secretary of Natural and Environmental Resources, Rafael Machargo.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Marquez Marín is in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted, the defendants could face a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy to engage in the illicit trade of migratory birds and each Lacey Act charge; and up to two years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of up to $250,000.00 for each Migratory Birds Act charge.
Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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