Man Sentenced In Federal Feather Selling Case
May 29, 2012
An Atmore man has been sentenced to probation for violating federal laws dealing with the possession and sale of protected bird feathers. He was also ordered to pay $31,000 in restitution for killing protected migratory birds.
In February, Alexander D. Alvarez pleaded guilty before a federal judge to violating the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for illegally selling and possessing the feathers of anhingas and other migratory birds protected under the MBTA.
He faced as much as five years in federal prison and a half million dollars in fines.
Enrolled members of federally-recognized American Indian tribes may possess eagle and other migratory bird feathers and parts for religious and ceremonial purposes, but federal law strictly prohibits the sale of migratory birds, feathers or their parts by any person.
Alvarez is not an enrolled member of a federally-recognized American Indian tribe, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He was employed by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians as a teacher, but has since reportedly lost that job.
“Mr. Alvarez sought to profit from selling protected bird feathers he had no legal right to possess,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “Federal law prohibits the sale of migratory birds, feathers or their parts for commercial gain. In enforcing these wildlife laws in partnership with tribal law enforcement, we share a duty to protect the nation’s scarce and precious wildlife resources. In protecting these resources for future generations, we also ensure the ability of federally recognized tribal members to possess eagle and migratory bird feathers for religious and ceremonial practices.”
According to court documents, Alvarez communicated via email with an individual in Louisiana and eventually exchanged two anhinga tails that Alvarez possessed for a crested caracara tail, a Harris’s hawk tail and $400, which the individual possessed. Alvarez later sent 14 sets of anhinga tail feathers to this individual and asked the individual to photograph and offer the tails for sale via email. Alvarez received payment from the Louisiana individual for the anhinga tail feathers that were sold. A federal search warrant was executed at Alvarez’s home on March 11, 2009, and feathers from several migratory bird species were seized.
Pictured: Alex Alvarez discusses traditional Poarch Creek dance during a Fall Festival at Bratt Elementary School last November. NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.