April 5 (UPI) — Federal authorities said two men were arrested at a New York airport for trying to smuggle 26 live birds concealed in hair curlers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said New York residents Victor Benjamin, 72, and Insaf Ali, 57, were stopped at John F. Kennedy International Airport after arriving from Guyana.
The men were found to be concealing 26 live finches that were placed inside hair curlers and stuffed into their socks.
Gabriel Harper of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York that finches from Guyana are prized for their singing voices. He said finch fans are known to enter the birds in singing contests, and winning finches have been known to sell for upwards of $5,000.
“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.”
Benjamin and Ali were booked on smuggling charges and released after posting $20,000 bond. They each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.