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.

Comments

21 Responses to “Man Sentenced In Federal Feather Selling Case”

  1. Just Somebody on May 30th, 2012 11:06 pm

    Sometimes in life people make bad choices, But that doesnt mean that we should be ridiculed for them. I agree it was something that should’nt have been done. But that doesnt make him less of a person. I have had the honor of being one of Mr.Alex’s students, and he is one of the most God fearing people I know. As a teacher, Mr.Alex can explain things to his students in a way that makes it easy to learn. I have seen the possitive infulence that he has had on the people around him just by taking an interest in their lives and by helping them to set goals for themselves as to what they want to be in life. More youth has stayed out of trouble and kept good grades in school because he has helped motivate them. When I met Mr.Alex four years ago, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. It is from him teaching me about my culture and encouraging me to use my skills and be a better person, that I have decided what I want to go to college for. Mr.Alex has been through alot in his life and uses the obstacles he has overcome as a teaching tool and testament to those around him. And I am sure he will use this to better himself and those around him. And I know he already has. Some people may say he is a bad person for this one mistake, but no matter what he will always be a great teacher, a great person, and a mentor to many. Throughout this whole situation he has stayed possitive. And that in itself shows his character. He has only tried to make a difference in peoples lives. What does it say about our character when we tear someone like this down? One day God will judge us exactly how we judge others. God knows the intent of Mr.Alex’s heart and that is all that matters. Just as God knows the intent of everyones heart that has commented.

  2. Trish on May 30th, 2012 9:16 pm

    I agree that Alex has done some wonderful things. My problem comes from the fact that if he was a registered tribe member it would have been ok because they, the feathers, are used in the culture. So just because he is not registered he gets arrested. Just does not make sense to me, granted anyone can say they are native american but if you have seen the work he does (or did) for the Poarch Creek tribe, saw him dance at the PowWow’s, you would know he has a heck of a lot more native american blood than just your regular john doe county resident. Just saying I have a problem with having to be registered to make you legit.

  3. David Huie Green on May 30th, 2012 6:16 pm

    REGARDING:
    “but I believe it’s what you do in life that makes you a good person.”

    Or bad? Surely it would depend what those things you did in life, yes? no?

    David thinking you are what you do,
    therefor what you do should make some difference

  4. Unknown Friend on May 30th, 2012 10:35 am

    I have worked with Alex a few years ago. He works well with children and they love him. I’m not sure if he belongs to a tribe or not, but when it comes to the Native American heritage, he truly supports it. Yes, we all do wrong because we don’t live in a perfect world, but I believe it’s what you do in life that makes you a good person.

  5. cw on May 30th, 2012 7:13 am

    ya,ll keep saying the bear was killed well if people had not feed the bear thin they could have taking the bear dipp in the woods and seat it lose but he was so us to people and there food that he was a danger .the apartment was close to a school full of little kids and he could have kill one of those kids thin what wood you have said thin kill the bear people don,t no what there doing win they feed wild animalsthey can tern on you but killing wild bird for profit is so wrong he should have got more time al law are to lean if he had done that in fl he wood have got alot more time and still been jail

  6. Ken on May 29th, 2012 3:43 pm

    There are several good points on both sides of this story! It is a shame that we sometime protect our wildlife and domestic animals more than we do our own species, but we do need to protect these creatures.There are laws in place to do both so if you dont want to pay the penalty, then obey the law, Its as simple as that!!!

  7. Bell on May 29th, 2012 10:25 am

    @ Don’t Know:
    “Indian people” really? How about Native American. Do you say African people too? Your call sign fits you well.

  8. Trish on May 29th, 2012 10:13 am

    To Don’t Know:
    You said he is not a member of any tribe. There are plenty of part native americans that are not “official” members of any tribe. Some choose to not be official members for whatever personal reasons they have. Tribes have the same problems any other group has and some individuals just don’t want to get that politically involved.

    Have to agree with “Huh”, sell bird feathers and pay 31K fine, kill a bear because you are an “official” who is paid to protect wildlife and that is ok.

    How many of us are going to go to jail when they make the Eastern Diamondback Rattle Snake a protected species? Just don’t skin it and sell the skin, or take it to a taxidermist to have it stuffed, or even pick it up off of the ground after you run over it with your car or truck!

  9. joe on May 29th, 2012 9:49 am

    he should be doing time for his crime…….
    no amount of money will bring the birds back to life. there is a reason they are protected. once again my government has let me down by not delivering appropriate justice to fit the crime.
    the courts and the elected officials have become a joke an nothing more than puppets.
    this is a sad sad day…….

  10. EMD on May 29th, 2012 9:47 am

    To Huh:

    God created a perfect world. Man made it strange.

  11. Don't know on May 29th, 2012 9:06 am

    Some people need to read the article before commenting. First it says he’s not a member of any Tribe, so all the stuff about feathers being medicine don’t apply here. They might be for some Indian people, but he was trying to sell the feathers to Indian people so he could profit. The other thing is he didn’t find dead birds, he killed them for the purpose of getting the feathers. Not a problem if these weren’t endangered birds, but they were. He knew the risks, and no doubt these are the ones he got caught for. No this might not be as bad as burglary or assault, but they are still crimes and his conviction is still a felony.

  12. Ben Thar on May 29th, 2012 8:57 am

    Is he paying $31,000 restitution to the birds?

  13. I understand on May 29th, 2012 8:39 am

    Some of you here do not understand the respect of these birds and the purpose of possessing these feathers. Different birds and animals have different meanings. Native Americans use these for ceremonies and special things. For example, a woman is not even to touch an eagle feather unless it is gifted to her for specific reasons. I am glad he was prosecuted. Yes, I agree, child molesters and drug addicts deserve prosecution, too, but, please understand other cultural beliefs. Prosecuting someone for illegal possession of these feathers is just as important to other cultures. Being Native American, I undertand…

  14. me on May 29th, 2012 8:23 am

    WHAT AN UTTER WASTE OF THE COURTS TIME AND TAXPAYER MONEY…HOW STUPID! WE HAVE RAPIST, ROBBERS AND CHILD MOLESTERS, DOPE, DRUGS ETC AND THEY WASTED TIME WITH THIS BULL?????????????????????? TIME TO WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES!

  15. I Do Know on May 29th, 2012 8:20 am

    Alice,

    That is what the law states on paper. Yes, you are right in stating “child molesters do not get shorter sentences”. That is because the majority of them never serve a day in jail. And I speak from experience. If you truly believe what you posted, you are very sadly misinformed on what really goes on in our despicable justice system when it comes to a child molester.
    As far as this “feather” selling story, what a waste (once again) of taxpayers money!

  16. naturelover on May 29th, 2012 7:55 am

    I can understand protecting wildlife…I even agree with laws to protect them. Sooo, if you find a feather on the ground, you have to leave it there and let it rot as opposed to picking it up and taking it home to admire? I wouldn’t agree with killing them for their feathers, but they do die eventually and I guess where he messed up was advertising. To a native American, feathers have medicine according to each bird. For them to own such medicine is sacred. As far as government, some things NEVER change…always putting their nose in where it should not be allowed. just saying~

  17. Alice Harris on May 29th, 2012 7:13 am

    Child molestation (lewd touching of “private” areas of a child, even on top of clothing) is punished in FL by 25 years in state prison, day-for-day–no early release, parole, or gain time. Child molesters do not get short sentences.

  18. OHHH MMMM GEEEEE on May 29th, 2012 6:57 am

    “”HE faced as much as 5 years in prison”"??? WHAT?????
    A CHILD MOLESTOR gets LESS time than this!
    WHAT in the heck is wrong with our system?
    3 DUI’s before ANY consequeces!! but, kill a bird and sell it’s feathers and ruffle up some folks!

  19. Jane on May 29th, 2012 6:37 am

    The birds are protected for a reason…to continue to breed and replenish their dwindling population. The bear would not have had to be killed if people had not fed it, Two totally different situations.

  20. Walnut Hill Roy on May 29th, 2012 6:26 am

    To Huh,
    You forgot the old Reagan line about the most feared words in the U.S. “I’m from the government, I’m here to help!) Yeah, right!

  21. huh on May 29th, 2012 4:10 am

    Kill a bird and go to jail or pay a 31k fine, kill a bear thats harmed no one, and somehow its ok.

    Strange world isnt it?





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