A man from Guyana — Kevin Andre McKenzie, 36 — is accused of smuggling the birds that are prized in singing contests, authorities said.
Matt Troutman, Patch StaffPosted Tue, Apr 27, 2021 at 4:45 pm ET|Updated Tue, Apr 27, 2021 at 5:02 pm ET
NEW YORK CITY — A passenger flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport tried to smuggle a flock of finches into the country, authorities said.
Customs officials found 35 live finches stuffed in hair curlers concealed on the passenger — Kevin Andre McKenzie, 36 — Monday, according to a federal criminal complaint.
The birds are prized for singing contests in Brooklyn and Queens, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who filed the complaint wrote.https://45560797dd1b5e4c83b3b21ac05689ab.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
“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,” the complaint states. “Many who attend the singing contests wager on the birds. A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for more than $10,000. Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more valuable.”
McKenzie is a resident of Guyana, authorities said. He flew from the South American country and arrived at JFK, where customs agents searched him, the complaint states.
They found the birds stuffed in hair rollers concealed beneath his pants legs and jacket, the complaint states.
“The defendant told agents that he had been offered $3,000 to smuggle the birds into the United States,” the complaint states. “He was paid $500 before the flight, and he expected to
receive the remaining $2,500 when he exited Customs.”
United States law prohibits importing wildlife and specifies commercial birds must be quarantined for 30 days to prevent the spread of diseases such as bird flu.
McKenzie faces a charge of intentionally and unlawfully importing and bringing into the United States merchandise contrary to law. He was released on a $25,000 bond.