Man Arrested for Hiding 34 Finches in Plastic Curlers

Finch smuggler grounded at JFK accused of hiding prized warblers inside plastic hair curlers

Finch smuggler grounded at JFK accused of hiding prized warblers inside plastic hair curlers

Francis Gurahoo, a 39-year-old man from CT, was arrested at New York City's JFK International Airport over the weekend after he was caught trying to smuggle 34 live finches from Guyana into the US. Though finches are available in the U.S., Guyanese finches are considered to have better singing voices.

According to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, and obtained by CNN and other outlets, Francis Gurahoo, 39, allegedly hid each bird in a plastic hair curler.

The Washington Post reports the birds were discovered during a customs exam. They are used in singing contests in Brooklyn and Queens where wages are placed on the birds with the best voice.

The complaint goes on to state that Gurahoo admitted to the crime and that he'd planned to sell each finch for approximately $3,000, which would have amounted to a total of $102,000, had he been able to remain undetected by officials with the US Customs and Border Protection.

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During the singing contests, which are often held in public parks, two birds sing against each other after spectators place bets, and then a judge declares a victor, the special agent said.

"They bet on how many times the finches will chirp in a minute, which finch chirps the most", Anthony Bucci, a spokesman for United States Customs and Border Protection in NY, told the Times.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says bird smuggling could threaten agriculture through the possible spread of diseases such as bird flu.

"An individual willing to smuggle finches into the United Staes from Guyana can earn a large profit by selling these birds in the NY area", the filing said. In December, CBP nabbed a passenger flying into NY from Guyana with 70 live birds in a carry-on bag, also hidden inside of hair rollers.

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