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REGION 8: Orange County Men Sentenced to Federal Prison for Smuggling Songbirds From Vietnam Into the U.S.
California-Nevada Offices , June 7, 2010
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Two Orange County men were sentenced June 7  to prison terms and ordered to pay more than $29,000 in restitution for smuggling songbirds into the United States from Vietnam.

Sony Dong, 46, was ordered to serve four months in federal prison by United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson. Judge Wilson also ordered Dong to pay nearly $4,000 in restitution to federal authorities who continue to care for the birds.

Dong pleaded guilty last year to one count of smuggling, admitting that he smuggling Asian songbirds into the United States on several occasions. Dong admitted working at the behest of Duc Le, 34, also of Garden Grove, who pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy.

Judge Wilson also sentenced Le to six months in prison, and ordered him to pay more than $25,000 in restitution.

The investigation in this case started in December 2008 when officials with Customs and Border Protection at Los Angeles International Airport discovered abandoned luggage that contained 18 birds, five of which were dead. Officials determined that Dong had checked the luggage while boarding a flight in Vietnam.

In 2009, CBP determined that Dong had flown to Vietnam and was scheduled to return on April 13. After Dong arrived at LAX as scheduled, CBP conducted a secondary inspection of Dong and found bird feathers and bird droppings on his socks, as well as birds’ tail feathers visible under his pants. After Dong was transported to a quarantine area, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents searched him and discovered 14 live birds attached to two flat pieces of cloth that were wrapped around his calves. The birds included three red-whiskered bul-buls (which is listed as an injurious species under federal law), four magpie robins and six shama thrush. A subsequent search warrant executed at Le’s residence uncovered 51 additional songbirds and numerous large birdcages.

When Dong pleaded guilty, he admitted smuggling the 18 birds found in the luggage in December 2008, as well as the 14 birds that were strapped to his leg. Dong received instructions from Le on purchasing birds and smuggling birds into the United States. Le purchased plane tickets so Dong could travel to Southeast Asia.

Federal law prohibits the importation of certain injurious birds into the United States without a permit. Federal law also requires that all wildlife, including birds, be declared to CBP at the port of first arrival in the United States.

This case is the product of an investigation by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and Customs and Border Protection. These agencies received assistance from the United Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services Branch.

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



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