Man tries to smuggle $100,000-worth of birds into US inside curlers

Clark Mindock

A man has been arrested in New York City after attempting to smuggle $100,000-worth of live birds into the US inside hair curlers, as a part of a scheme to sell them for profit on a Brooklyn and Queens bird singing circuit.

The man, 39-year-old Francis Gurahoo, was arrested as he attempted to bring the birds into the country inside of his carry-on to avoid quarantine. He later told officials he planned on selling for as much as $3,000 each.

According to a complaint filed against Mr Gurahoo, the bird smuggling operation has popped up in response to a considerable demand for songbirds in the city, especially in the Queens and Brooklyn neighbourhoods where bird singing competitions are held in parks.

“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.

The finches Mr Gurahoo were smuggling were from French Guiana, where birds are thought to have especially nice voices.

(US Attorney's Office)

Federal regulations require a permit for anyone importing birds or other wildlife into the US, with those documents being allotted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Federal regulations also stipulate that commercial birds being imported into the country must be quarantined for 30 days, in order to prevent the spread of foreign disease.

It is not clear what charges Mr Gurahoo will face when he appears in court this week.