Who, age What Where When Last known address
Duc Le, 24 smuggling song birds into the US Los Angeles, CA December, 2008 Garden Grove, CA
Song Dong, 46 smuggling song birds into the US Los Angeles, CA December, 2008 Garden Grove, CA
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved
Federal Smuggling charges conspiracy 3 red-whiskered bul-buls, 4 magpie robins, 6 shama thrush, 69 other songbirds

Two Garden Grove men, including one who allegedly hid more than a dozen live songbirds under his trousers and tried to smuggle them through airport customs, were charged with illegally importing wildlife and lying to investigators.

Duc Le, 34, and Sony Dong, 46, were named in an eight-count federal indictment that also charges them with conspiracy to smuggle the tiny birds, including one injurious species, into the United States from Vietnam.

Both were arrested last month after investigators discovered Dong had 14 live Asian songbirds, individually wrapped in cloth, strapped to his legs and ankles as he attempted to enter the country at Los Angeles International Airport, according to court documents. A subsequent search warrant executed at Le's home uncovered 51 additional songbirds and numerous cages.

The colorful, singing birds are sold to collectors and exhibitors in the United States for up to $400 apiece, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Williams.

The investigation started before Christmas when customs officials at LAX discovered luggage allegedly abandoned by Dong containing 18 birds, five of which were dead, U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said.

About a month ago, agents determined that Dong had again flown to Vietnam and was scheduled to return on April 13. When he arrived at LAX after the 15-hour flight from Hanoi, a search found bird feathers and droppings on his socks, as well as tail feathers visible under his pants, O'Brien said.

After he was brought to a quarantine area, agents searched Dong and discovered 14 live birds attached to two flat pieces of cloth wrapped around his calves.

The birds included three red-whiskered bul-buls -- listed as an injurious species under federal law -- four magpie robins and six shama thrush.

After linking Le to Dong's activities, investigators executed a search warrant at Le's residence and found an outdoor aviary consisting of about 70 large bird cages that contained 51 Asian songbirds, according to court documents.

Along with conspiracy, Dong is charged with three counts of illegally importing wildlife and three counts of importing goods by means of false statement. Le additionally is charged with making a false statement to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.

Federal law requires all wildlife, including birds, be declared to customs at the port of first arrival in the United States.

If convicted of the charges contained in the indictment, Le faces a statutory maximum sentence of 26 years in federal prison, while Dong faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years.

After their arrest last month, the men were deemed not a flight risk and released on bond.

Le is scheduled to be arraigned on May 11 in U.S. District Court. Dong's arraignment is set for May 18.

All the birds are in quarantine, O'Brien said.

Update 5/6/09:  Two Orange County men have been charged with smuggling song birds into the United States. One of them is accused of concealing more than a dozen live birds underneath his clothing.

  (Photo courtesy of US Attorney)  14 of the birds were strapped onto the man's legs during a commercial flights from Vietnam to Los Angeles International Airport, according to the United State's Attorney's office.

The U.S. attorney's office says Dong was held over for inspection at LAX upon his return from Vietnam earlier this month. Prosecutors say he had bird feathers and droppings on his socks, and birds' tail feathers peeking out from under his pants when he was arrested.

Le was later linked to Dong and charged after investigators found an outdoor aviary consisting of 70 large bird cages that contained 51 Asian songbirds inside his Garden Grove home, according to court papers.

Both men have been released on bond.

Reference:

KTLA News

MY Fox LA

US Attorney's office