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Eagle 'Chop Shop' Draws Federal Indictments for Trafficking of Birds

Image: Eagle 'Chop Shop' Draws Federal Indictments for Trafficking of Birds

South Dakota U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler discusses the details of indictments in an eagle trafficking case in Rapid City, South Dakota, on Monday, April 24, 2017. (AP Photo/James Nord)

By    |   Tuesday, 25 Apr 2017 02:39 PM

An eagle "chop shop" allegedly run out of a Rapid City, South Dakota, was targeted by federal authorities who accused suspects of selling eagle feathers, talons, beaks and other parts as merchandise for an illegal moneymaking operation.

Some 15 people were indicted in the case connected with the trafficking of eagles and other migratory birds after a two-year investigation by undercover officers, the Pierre Capital Journal reported. U.S. attorney Randy Seiler promised additional federal charges in the case.

As many of 250 eagles were involved in the trade, with their feathers and other body parts stuffed in garbage bags as merchandise, authorities said, calling one operation a "chop shop for eagles," the newspaper reported.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.

Three men from Rapid City charged in the case are connected with Buffalo Dreamers, a group that performs Native American dance programs, The Associated Press reported. Troy Fairbanks, 54, was charged with conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking and violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Lacey Act, noted the Justice Department.

Fairbanks allegedly sold or traded eagle parts to an informant including a golden eagle head for $250, a trade involving about $5,400 of merchandise for eagle parts and selling two sets of eagle wings for $900, the AP reported.

According to the indictment, Fairbanks allegedly claimed in 2015 that he could acquire from 30 and 40 eagles by February 2016, wrote the news service.

"There was no cultural sensitivity. There was no spirituality," Seiler said, according to the Capital Journal. "There was no tradition in the manner in which these defendants handled these birds."

Along with Fairbanks, the Justice Department statement said others indicted included:

  • Majestic Fairbanks, 22, conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking.
  • Troy Young Fairbanks, 24, conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking.
  • Alvin Brown Jr., 37, conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking, and violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Lacey Act.
  • Michael Primeaux, 32, conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking, and violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Juan Mesteth, 39, conspiracy to commit wildlife Trafficking, violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and felon in possession of a firearm.
  • Aaron David West, 62, E violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Aaron David West Jr., 33, violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Jorge Pena, 44, violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Valencia Neck, 38, violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Benjamin Iron Hawk, 44, violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Chet Christensen, 66, violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Ronald Fisher, 64, violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Gary Fisher, 69, violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • David Jasper, 60, violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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An eagle "chop shop" allegedly run out of a Rapid City, South Dakota, was targeted by federal authorities who accused suspects of selling eagle feathers, talons, beaks and other parts as merchandise for an illegal moneymaking operation.
eagle, chop shop, federal, indictments, trafficking, birds
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2017-39-25
Tuesday, 25 Apr 2017 02:39 PM
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