ENR (202) 616-1089 TDD (202) 514-1888

JUDGE SENTENCES LAST MEMBERS OF RING CAUGHT SMUGGLING POTENTIALLY DISEASE-BEARING ENDANGERED BIRDS INTO THE UNITED STATES WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The last of sixteen members of a South Texas smuggling ring that brought in rare and potentially disease-bearing parrots from Mexico and Latin America today were sentenced to prison, the Department of Justice announced today. American taxpayers have spent $75 million over the past several years compensating U.S. poultry farmers whose flocks had to be destroyed after they became infected with the disease transmitted by the parrots. In addition, smuggling poses a serious threat to many types of Amazon parrots. Three individuals were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi. Judge Hayden W. Head, Jr. sentenced Salvador Cazares Salazar of Montemorelos, Mexico (16 months in jail) and Neomi Duarte Freeman of Burleson, Texas (27 months in jail, $15,000 fine). Also, U.S. Magistrate Judge Eduardo E. deAses sentenced Corynna Ramirez of Alice, Texas to 5 years probation and 6 months home detention. In February, 1992 two members of the ring were arrested in Austin for the possession of 70 baby parrots. They were charged with smuggling and violating the Endangered Species Act and Department of Agriculture regulations. An investigation conducted jointly with the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uncovered a network of parrot smuggling and distribution to bird hobbyists and pet shops. Assistant Attorney General Lois Schiffer said the ring received the smuggled birds at an aviary doing business as Jesse's Bird Farm in Sandia, Texas. The farm was used to imply that the birds were bred on site. There was evidence that the parrot-smuggling ring had operated for nearly a decade. Schiffer, who heads the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said the parrots were potential carriers of Newcastle Disease, which is particularly dangerous to domestic poultry and for which there is no treatment or cure. To stop the fast-moving disease, entire flocks must be killed. "That's why parrot smuggling transcends greed and stupidity," said Schiffer. "It has caused untold heartbreak to American poultry farmers and millions of dollars in costs to taxpayers, as well as threatening the existence of

endangered animals. Parrot smugglers are criminals who will be prosecuted and punished wherever we find them." The smuggling process also threatens other breeds of parrot with extinction, such as the yellow-naped Amazon parrot, which is an endangered species. As many as 90 percent of the thousands of smuggled parrots die before they reach the United States. ### 94-646