Guyanese man busted at JFK smuggling Finches for bird-singing competitions
(New York Post) A Connecticut man tried smuggling nearly three dozen live finches from Guyana through JFK Airport so he could sell them for use in high-stakes Big Apple bird-singing competitions, federal officials said.
Francis Gurahoo, 39, was arrested Sunday after he flew into the Queens airport aboard Caribbean Airlines flight BW 526 from Georgetown, Guyana.
US Customs and Border Protection officials found 34 live finches, each hidden inside a plastic hair-curler, inside of Gurahoo’s carry-on when he was selected for a customs examination, according to a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court Monday.
Gurahoo admitted “that he had intended to smuggle the birds inside of his carry-on luggage” and that he planned to sell the finches for about $3,000 each, making for a payday of about $102,000, the complaint said.
“The defendant further stated that he knew what he did was wrong, but was motivated by potential financial gain,” the court documents state.
In recent years, according to the complaint, US Customs and Border Protection working at JFK Airport have stopped numerous people trying to illegally traffic the small seed-eating birds into the US from Guyana.
Special Agent Gabriel Harper of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who assisted in the Gurahoo investigation, wrote in the complaint that “individuals keep finches to enter them in singing contests in Brooklyn and Queens.”
“In such contests, often conducted in public areas like parks, two finches sing and a judge selects the bird determined to have the best voice,” Harper wrote.
Those who attend the singing contests often gamble on the birds.
“A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell in excess of $5,000,” Harper wrote in the complaint, which noted that “although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more highly sought after.”
Anyone willing to traffic in finches to the US to Guyana “can earn a large profit by selling these birds in the New York area,” Harper said in the complaint.
Gurahoo, donning a red shirt and gray jeans, was arraigned Monday on a charge of unlawful wildlife smuggling and released after his uncle and cousin posted his $25,000 bond.
A judge ordered that Gurahoo’s passport be taken away and restricted his travel to only New York City and Connecticut.
Gurahoo and his family refused to comment on the case to reporters.
Meanwhile, last December, federal authorities arrested a Guyanese man at JFK Airport for trying to smuggle in 70 inches concealed in hair rollers in a duffel bag.
US Customs and Border Protection spokesman Anthony Bucci told The Post at the time that the birds would have likely been used in the bird-singing competitions.
“They will gamble on how many times the finch chirps in a minute – which finch chirps the most,” Bucci previously said.
Back in April of last year, two men were arrested for attempting to traffic finches into the country from Guyana using the same hair curler method.
In that case, Victor Benjamin of Brooklyn and Insaf Ali of The Bronx were caught with 26 finches at JFK Airport and charged, NBC New York reported.