NY duo caught smuggling birds from Guyana, charged

By iNews Guyana

26 of the birds were found stuffed in hair curlers and placed in the socks of the defendants

(INEWS GUYANA) – Two New York (NY) men who were reportedly caught at John F Kennedy (JFK) International Airport trying to smuggle finches from Guyana were charged for the offence an ABC News report has said.

The article published on Wednesday detailed that 26 of the birds were found stuffed in hair curlers and placed in the socks of the defendants, identified as Victor Benjamin, 72, of Brooklyn and Insaf Ali, 57, of the Bronx, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York.

“My investigation has revealed that individuals keep finches to enter them in singing contests,” said Gabriel Harper of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the complaint, ABC News reported, while adding that, “In such contests, often conducted in public areas like parks, two finches sing and a judge selects the bird determined to have the best voice.”

Those who attend the singing contests wager on the birds. A finch who wins can sell for US$5000 or more, Harper said.

“Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more highly sought after,” Harper said in the complaint. “An individual willing to smuggle finches into the United States from Guyana can earn a large profit by selling these birds in the New York area,” the report added.

Benjamin and Ali were stopped by US Customs and Border Protection after they landed at the airport on a flight from Guyana.

According to the US news agency, the men made an initial appearance in US District Court in Brooklyn and were released on a $20,000 bond. They did not enter a plea.

If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison, according to the ABC News.

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