ENR AUSA DANIEL GOODMAN (213)894-4667 DOJ JIM SWEENEY (202)514-2008


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A federal jury in Los Angeles late yesterday convicted Theodora Elizabeth Swanson, 35, of Memphis, Tennessee, on felony charges stemming from her involvement in a multi-year conspiracy to smuggle cockatoo eggs from Australia to the United States in violation of federal law and international treaty, the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney for the Central District of California announced. After hearing nearly five days of testimony, the jury convicted Swanson of conspiracy to trade in protected wildlife, aiding and abetting smuggling and violating the Lacey Act, a federal law that protects wildlife. "Today's conviction marks the successful end of our nationwide investigation into cockatoo smuggling," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "It makes good on our promise to aggressively pursue and prosecute wildlife crime." Evidence in the case revealed that between 1986 and 1991, more than 10 individuals travelled to Australia and took the eggs of protected cockatoos from nest sites in the wild. These collecting trips occurred every year. The eggs were then transported to the United States in concealed egg vests worn underneath the smugglers' clothing. 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 approximately $1,000 and $13,000 per bird, depending on the species. Investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assert that more than 400 cockatoo eggs were taken from nests and transported to the United States during the life of the conspiracy. -MOREEvidence in the case suggested that Ms. Swanson had travelled twice to Australia as an egg smuggler with the leader of the conspiracy, William Wegner. After these trips, Swanson moved in with Wegner at a residence in Malibu and, according to testimony, continued to assist him in recruiting smugglers, facilitating smuggling trips and caring for the smuggled cockatoos.

According to United States Attorney Nora M. Manella, Swanson is the sixth and last defendant to be convicted on an indictment that was returned in April, 1994. One defendant, John Barth, was sentenced in September 1994 to 24 months imprisonment for conspiring to trade in smuggled cockatoos. Swanson and four other defendants (William Arthur Wegner, Brian T. Bradley, David Conrad Freda, and Mark Skillman) are scheduled to be sentenced in August and September 1995. Swanson was the last of 15 individuals prosecuted successfully across the country for federal crimes associated with the cockatoo smuggling conspiracy. The nationwide investigation was led by Special Agent Robert Jarmuz of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and prosecuted by Robert Anderson, Senior Trial Counsel with the Environment Division's Wildlife and Marine Resource Section. The trial of Swanson was prosecuted jointly by Anderson and Assistant United States Attorney Daniel S. Goodman in the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office. Two of the three counts of which Swanson has been convicted carry a maximum sentence of five years incarceration and a $250,000 fine. The remaining count carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. ### 95-379