San Juan – US Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow reported Thursday that a federal grand jury charged three men with alleged conspiracy to participate in the illicit trade in migratory birds; sale, offer of sale and barter of migratory birds (Migratory Bird Treaty Law); and wildlife trafficking (Lacey Act).
“The illegal trafficking of migratory birds poses a serious threat to our ecosystems,” Muldrow said in written communication.
“I commend the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Office of Law Enforcement, and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources for their investigation of this matter. The US Attorney’s Office will continue to vigorously prosecute those who participate in the illegal sale of protected wildlife, ”he added.
The defendants were arrested on January 13, 2021, by agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Office of Law Enforcement and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.
The defendants and the charges are as follows: Carlos David Flores Ríos, alias “Carlos Flores Ríos” who faces a charge of conspiracy; five charges for selling, offering to sell and trade migratory birds, specifically short-eared owls (Asio flammeus); and a wildlife trafficking charge.
Edgardo Marín Candelaria faces a conspiracy charge and a wildlife trafficking charge. Marín Candelaria sold two long-eared owls knowing that the owls had been captured in violation of the Migratory Bird Law.
And Misael Cruz Rivera faces a charge for selling, offering to sell and trading migratory birds, specifically an American kestrel (Falco sparverius).
According to the prosecution, the purpose of the conspiracy was for the defendants to unjustly enrich themselves by trafficking, capturing, selling and bartering migratory birds.
The defendants and co-conspirators captured and possessed migratory birds; kept them illegally in temporary housing; offered the birds for sale on private Internet chat groups; sold the birds to local buyers; negotiated the price of the birds, paid and received payments for the trafficking of migratory birds in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
“The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement actively pursues those seeking to profit from the illegal commercial exploitation of our natural resources. These criminal activities damage endangered species and fragile ecosystems throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. We will continue to work with our partners to bring to justice those who willfully ignore environmental laws, ”said Aurelia Skipwith, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Sellers and potential buyers of these animals know that 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 the flora and fauna of Puerto Rico and what is more worrying, they could even represent a danger to people’s lives. We urge the public not to sponsor these illicit businesses, either by owning or buying them, ”said the Secretary of Natural and Environmental Resources, Rafael Machargo.
Assistant United States Attorney Carmen Márquez Marín is in charge of prosecuting the case.
If convicted, the defendants could face a maximum prison sentence of five years and a maximum fine of $ 250,000 for conspiracy to participate in the illicit trade in migratory birds and each count of the Lacey Act; and up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of up to $ 250,000 for each count of the Migratory Bird Act.
The indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty.