LOS ANGELES – Federal agents arrested a Fountain Valley man Tuesday on federal smuggling charges, alleging he illegally brought 93 Asian songbirds to the United States on a flight from Vietnam March 24 – most of which died in transit or soon after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport.
Kurtis Law, 49, who also maintains a residence in Vietnam, was taken into custody by special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Law is charged with smuggling goods into the U.S., a felony offense that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. He is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon.
According to the affidavit in filed in support of the criminal complaint, officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) found several species of protected songbirds in Law’s luggage, including Bali Mynas birds, Chinese Hwamei birds, Silver-eared Mesia birds, and Red-billed Leiothrix birds. All of these species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The criminal complaint alleges the birds were placed in Law’s suitcases in a way “that allowed each bird little or no movement.” All but eight of the 93 birds ultimately died as a result of the smuggling.
The investigation in this case is being conducted by the USFWS, HSI, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dennis Mitchell and Erik M. Silber of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.