LOS ANGELES – A Santa Ana man was arrested today by special agents with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service after he was charged with unlawfully selling feathers from a bald eagle and other protected migratory birds.
Tyler Rene Vela, 27, was arrested this morning without incident pursuant to a criminal complaint filed last week. Vela is scheduled to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court.
The complaint filed last Wednesday outlines an undercover investigation conducted by agents from the Fish and Wildlife Service to identify individuals who illegally traffic in eagles, red-tail hawks and other protected bird species.
Following a series of undercover Facebook messages, Vela sold “bustles” made from feathers taken from red-tail hawks, turkey vultures and bald eagles, according to the complaint. A bustle is a string of either hawk or eagle feathers attached to a backboard and worn on the back during Native American dance exhibitions. In 2015 2016, Vela allegedly negotiated prices, accepted payments and mailed the bustles to undercover agents.
Southern California is home to a variety of protected native and migratory bird species. Protected wildlife species are generally identified as threatened or endangered and are in need of protection to ensure the viability of the population.
Federal wildlife statutes are in place to protect migratory birds, red-tail hawks and other birds of prey, generally prohibiting the sale and trafficking of their parts. The use of the internet and social media platforms to sell protected bird species – or any other threatened or endangered wildlife – creates a market, increases demand and ultimately leads to the decimation of these vulnerable populations.
The complaint charges Vela with misdemeanor offenses of selling subadult bald eagle feathers and the parts of other protected migratory birds, including a red-tailed hawk. If convicted of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Vela faces a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison. If convicted of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, he faces a statutory maximum of six months in federal prison.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The case against Vela is being investigated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Amanda M. Bettinelli of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.
Component(s): USAO – California, Central
Press Release Number: 17-097Updated May 9, 2017
Central District of California DOJ / 17-097 / May 09, 2017