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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Redwood City, Calif., Man Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison, Fined $5,000 For Smuggling Federally-Protected Eagle Owls

Region 8, June 26, 2007
Eagle owl.
Eagle owl. - Photo Credit: n/a

A federal court in San Francisco Monday ordered Jeffrey A. Diaz of Redwood City, Calif., to serve 21 months in federal prison, pay a $5,000 fine and serve three years probation upon release from prison for smuggling federally-protected eagle owls into the United States from Austria, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.  

 

Diaz was charged by federal grand jury in January 2006 with two felony counts of smuggling live eagle owl eggs (Bubo bubo )on two occasions from Austria to the United States during the Christian and Orthodox Easter holidays in March and April 2005.  In an effort to disguise the owl eggs, Diaz partially painted them to resemble Easter eggs. He then placed them in an Easter basket with plastic grass and hand warmers that temporarily incubated the eggs while being transported.  He was also charged with making false statements to federal law enforcement authorities, a felony, in connection with the eagle owl smuggling.  In November 2006, Diaz pleaded guilty to all four charges.

 

Three of the smuggled eggs eventually hatched and the birds are currently being cared for in area wildlife centers. 

 

Eagle owls are native to Asia, Europe and the Middle East and are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty through which the United States and more than 150 other countries protect certain species of fish, wildlife, and plants against over exploitation by regulating trade in the species.  Protected species are listed in appendices to CITES.  Eagle owls are listed as Appendix II in CITES.  The United States implements CITES through the Endangered Species Act which prohibits trade in specimens contrary to CITES as well as possession of specimens that have been traded contrary to CITES.

 

The smuggling investigation was led by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with assistance from Customs and Immigration Enforcement, and the California Department of Fish and Game.  The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice.

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov