Man caught trying to smuggle 35 live birds packed in hair curlers into America

A man traveling from Guyana tried to smuggle 35 live birds stuffed inside hair curlers through New York’s JFK.

  • New York’s JFK airport border officials arrested a bird dealer traveling from South America. 
  • The man was trying to smug 35 live songbirds hidden inside hair curlers.
  • This was the second case of a finch smuggler in April alone. 

Flying all the way from Georgetown, Guyana, Kevin Andre McKenzie was caught by New York border officials with 35 finches hidden inside rows of hair curlers.

Credits: US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District NY

The JFK airport Customs and Border Protection officials found the curlers sewn into the smuggler’s coat and taped around his ankles, as Unilad reports.

The man managed to keep the songbirds quiet through the six-hour flight from Georgetown to New York. Thankfully, they all survived the long journey and were reportedly handed over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Veterinary Services.

Credits: US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York

This was the second time in April alone the JFK border officials have caught a finch-dealer.

According to the New York Post, earlier this month, a 26-year-old was caught smuggling 29 live birds stuffed inside plastic hair rollers. He was hiding the finches inside a suitcase.

In 2018, another bust was reported, describing a man trying to smuggle 70 birds from Guyana into America. They were also stuffed inside hair curlers. As the New York Times reveals, by the end of that year, over 2,000 of the illegally transported birds were confiscated by CBP officials across the country.

Credits: US Customs and Border Protection

Reportedly, the songbirds are being smuggled into the United States to compete in “speed singing” contests.

These battles are said to be especially popular amongst Latin American and Caribbean immigrants living in New York, as the winnings often reach thousands of dollars.

The court filing against McKenzie states:

“In such contests, often conducted in public areas like parks, two finches sing and a judge selects the bird determined to have the best voice. A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for more than $10,000.”

Credits: US Customs and Border Protection

Furthermore, the smuggler told officials he was offered $3,000 to export the birds. However, he could be lying about the amount, as a finch-dealer caught in 2019 confessed he was promised $3,000 per bird.

McKenzie was charged with the illegal importation of wildlife. He was later released on a $25,000 bond. However, if convicted, the smuggler could face up to 20 years behind bars.

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