$100K in Songbirds Found Smuggled in Hair Curlers at NYC Airport - NBC 7 San Diego
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$100K in Songbirds Found Smuggled in Hair Curlers at NYC Airport

The smuggled finches are used in singing contests in Brooklyn and Queens where wages are placed on the birds with the best "voice," prosecutors say

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    $100K in Songbirds Found Smuggled in Hair Curlers at NYC Airport
    Federal prosecutors

    A man was arrested at JFK Airport Sunday after attempting to smuggle into the United States 34 live birds from Guyana — concealed in plastic hair curlers, prosecutors announced.

    According to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, Francis Gurahoo, a 39-year-old from Connecticut, tried to smuggle dozens of finches in his carry-on luggage.

    The smuggled finches are used in singing contests in Brooklyn and Queens where wages are placed on the birds with the best "voice," prosecutors say.

    "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. Many who attend the singing contests wager on the birds. A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for in excess of $5,000," the complaint reads.

    Last year, two New York residents were arrested at JFK after allegedly smuggling 26 finches from Guyana in hair curlers stashed in their socks.

    Gurahoo said he planned to sell the finches for about $3,000 each, according to the complaint filed by prosecutors. He allegedly admitted that he intended to smuggle the birds to avoid quarantine.

    Federal regulations require importers to declare the importation of any wildlife and to secure a permit for their importation from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Additionally, federal regulations call for imported commercial birds to be quarantined for 30 days to prevent the spread of diseases carried by foreign birds.

    Gurahoo was scheduled to appear in court Monday, where it was unclear what charges Gurahoo would face. Attorney information for Gurahoo was not immediately known. 

    In an unrelated event at Newark Airport on Sunday, another man was stopped by TSA agents when he tried to bring six smoke grenades in his carry-on bag

    While it is not illegal to own smoke grenades, they are prohibited from flights because "if released, smoke would fill the cabin and cause panic among the passengers and crew and possibly get into the cockpit," a TSA spokesperson said.

    The smoke grenades were neatly wrapped inside bubble wrap in the man's bag. The man handed the smoke grenades off to a companion who was not traveling, and was then allowed to proceed to his flight to the Dominican Republic.