FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 1995

ENR (202) 616-2771 TDD (202) 514-1888

LEADERS OF INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE SMUGGLING RING SENTENCED Snared By Nationwide Probe WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A federal judge in Los Angeles last night sentenced two leaders of a wild bird egg smuggling ring to prison. The pair were arrested and prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice's nationwide crackdown on wildlife smuggling. William Arthur Wegner, 45, of La Jolla, California, and Brian T. Bradley, 28, of New Paltz, New York, were sentenced to 60 and 41 months in prison respectively for running a scheme that smuggled more than $1 million in protected wild bird eggs into the United States from Australia. The federal judge, David V. Kenyon also found that Wegner had attempted to obstruct justice by committing perjury at the trial of a co-defendant last summer. Wegner will pay a $10,000 fine. Illegal international wildlife smuggling is estimated to be a $5 billion annual industry, generating more profit than illegal arms sales and second only to the world-wide drug trade. Wegner and Bradley had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for their leadership of an nine-year enterprise during which more than 700 eggs of protected cockatoos were smuggled from Australia to the United States in violation of numerous wildlife laws including the Lacey Act, a federal law that protects wildlife. Wegner had also pleaded guilty to underreporting his 1987 income on federal tax forms. Once in the United States, the eggs were hatched, reared and sold to collectors under the guise that they had been produced by captive parent birds. The cockatoos sold for between $1,000 and $13,000 per bird, depending on the species.

(MORE) "This case demonstrates that the United States will track down and prosecute those who illegally profit from protected wildlife -- particularly when it involves stealing the national treasures of other countries," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "These crimes threaten not only our ability but that of the international community to protect endangered species and global biodiversity," In addition to Wegner and Bradley, 13 other individuals have

been convicted in California, Florida, New York and Montana for their part in the cockatoo egg smuggling scheme. From 1983 to 1991, smugglers travelled to Australia each year during the cockatoo breeding season and removed eggs from nest sites, often in national park areas. After several days of collecting, the eggs were placed in home-made vests which contained pockets for up to 49 eggs. As the smugglers left Australia, the vests were worn underneath outer clothing to prevent detection by Customs authorities. Eggs which began to hatch during transit from Australia to the United States were destroyed. The cockatoo species smuggled by the group included the Rose-Breasted (or Galah) Cockatoo, the Major Mitchell's (or Leadbeater's) Cockatoo; the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, the Slender-Billed Cockatoo, the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo and the White-Tailed Black Cockatoo. All Australian cockatoos are protected under the terms of an international treaty called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is implemented in the United States by the Endangered Species Act. In addition, Australian state and federal laws prohibit the collection and export of cockatoos or their eggs for commercial purposes. The case was investigated by the Special Operations Branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ### 95-626