U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Southeast Region News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        Vicki M. Boatwright or

February 6, 1997                                  Diana M. Hawkins



A recent investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks has resulted in a Federal grand jury indictment and the guilty plea of a dealer in wildlife parts on a one-count felony violation of the Lacey Act.

Robert E. Austin of Malvern, Arkansas, pled guilty in U.S. District Court, Jackson, Mississippi, February 3, 1997, to the illegal sale of eagle and other migratory bird parts. Austin was arrested February 19, 1996, in Durant, Mississippi, by State wildlife officers and Service special agents and refuge officers after selling an eagle hat dance stick, an Indian head bonnet and other migratory bird parts to undercover officers. The controlled buy by law enforcement agents was set up after Austin had earlier offered to sell the officers 60 eagle feathers for $55 each. Agents said that Austin reported that his supplier sold the 60 eagle feathers to an unidentified buyer for a higher price. Sentencing has been set for April 25, 1997.

Passed in 1900, the Lacey Act prohibits the import, export, transportation, sale, receipt, acquisition, or purchase of fish, wildlife, or plants that are taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any Federal, State, tribal, or foreign law. The 1981 amendments to the Act were designed to strengthen Federal laws and improve Federal assistance to States and foreign governments in enforcement of fish and wildlife laws. The Act has become a vital tool in efforts to control smuggling and trade in illegally taken fish and wildlife.

Individuals convicted of violating the Lacey Act may be sentenced up to $100,000 and one year in jail for misdemeanors and up to $250,000 and five years' imprisonment for felony violations. Fines for organizations in violation of the Act are up to $250,000 and $500,000 for misdemeanor and felony violations, respectively. In addition, vehicles, aircraft, and equipment used in the violation as well as illegally taken fish, wildlife, and plants may be subject to forfeiture.


Release #97-16

1997 News Releases

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