Response to ‘endangered birds’ report
By Tyler Homesley
In response to the article titled “Ramona man charged in L.A. while trying to sell endangered birds:”
I am prefacing my response with the details that were left out of what actually happened, as well as the fact that I had no more prior knowledge than the next person that selling taxidermies can be illegal.
Taxidermies are DEAD animals that are stuffed in order to preserve their natural beauty after death. I bought them in the same state that they were going to be sold in, so I neither killed them nor stuffed them myself. There were only three total taxidermies that I attempted to sell, so this was no large sum of animals.
I initially purchased these birds to set up a display in my room that would commemorate the common interest that my father and I had in birds of prey, seeing as he had passed away in July 2010 right before purchase. Almost a year later, I lost interest in the display and sold the display case after selling the birds.
I thought this would only be another sale of merchandise on Craigslist, since I bought them trouble-free on eBay from Hong Kong. With that said, these birds are not native to the United States in their living form (a black-shouldered kite and a Eurasian kestrel). As it turned out, this was part of Operation CyberWild, which was a three-week environmental sting aimed at catching people selling illegal animals and animal parts on the internet.
On the day I headed up to San Juan Capistrano to try to sell these taxidermies, I brought along my friend Sarah as a companion for the trip up there (she is not facing any charges since she had no involvement). After the supposed transaction, I was ambushed in the parking lot by a pickup and a sport utility vehicle, each containing special agents.
The special agents present at the time, around six of them, were all males. At first, they pulled their guns out on Sarah and I (remember, this is all because of three stuffed birds), but every gun I saw was aimed at Sarah and not me, which is ludicrous. After that, we were both detained about 20 feet apart (we were not arrested and we did not go to jail), and this is where it gets worse.
They performed the routine pat-down on both of us, and there was no female special agent to perform it on Sarah. Sarah came home feeling uncomfortable because they patted her under her breasts and in the crotch area, which I witnessed. Neither of us had the monetary supply to sue them for sexual harassment, so they got away with it.
They asked to search my vehicle, and I voluntarily gave up my right to privacy by letting them search my truck. It had no weapons or any other illegal goods inside, so none of my personal belongings were confiscated. I was told by the special agent acting as the buyer that there might be repercussions from the attempted sale, which I acknowledged.
Before departing from the parking lot, I signed the mandatory forms and voluntarily forfeited the birds (I could have kept them if I wanted to). I did not expect a court summons to come back six months after the fact charging me with a federal case.
There are three assumptions that need to be clarified from this article. The first misconception is that I may face a year in prison. I was charged with a Class B Misdemeanor, not a felony, which in short is a mid- to low-level charge. The possible outcomes in the sentencing are a fine, community service, probation, jail, or prison at the worst. This was a non-violent, non-repeat, victimless offense.
The second misconception is that I am being charged for selling endangered birds. In truth, my charge actually reads that I “knowingly offered to sell two migratory birds… without a permit.” What stymies me is the wording, because dead birds cannot migrate. In doing research, I have not found a resource that says a permit is required to sell taxidermies. The word “endangered” was never used once anywhere, so this is an unfair bias.
The final misconception is that I was trying to sell living birds in an exotic animal ring. I reiterate that these birds were stuffed taxidermies. Anyone who knows me already knows that I graduated from California Lutheran University on May 14, 2011, and had been back at home for around a month or so when this sting took place. The time slot is too narrow to organize something as elaborate as an animal ring.
If anyone reading this has been to my house, the absence of a bird aviary will show that I do not deal with living birds, which further proves my point.
For selling three taxidermies at a combined price of $150 on Craigslist, and having a federal case result from it, this is arguably one of the worst accidental sales a person can make. What I learned from this whole ordeal is to always research any merchandise you buy and sell, since it can be illegal and can happen to anyone. It is not the duty of the seller to precaution the buyer that their items may be deemed illegal; they just want your money. Please do not repeat this same mistake.
Tyler Homesley is a Ramona resident.
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