Jose E. Souto, a 71-year old resident of Coral Gables FL, pled guilty this week and was sentenced for his involvement in the illegal possession of thirty-four specimens of migratory birds. The birds are protected by federal law and regulation, as part of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams passed sentencing on Souto who received the maximum criminal fine under the statute consisting of $15,000, and a one month term of probation.
A search of Souto’s residence located 34 birds whose species are among a number of native migratory bird species that have diminished significantly over their range in the Eastern United States.
Among the birds found were thirteen Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), four Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea), nine Painted Buntings (Passerina ciris), one Blue Grosbeak (Guiraca cycaerulea), and three Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks (Pheucticus ludovicianus).
As part of his sentencing, Souto must abandon the thirty-four avians, a cage, and a bird trap seized by the government. He must also make a donation of $7,500 to the Tropical Audubon Society for the purpose of funding research, education, and monitoring of migratory birds and their habitats in South Florida.
Authorities were directed to Souto’s home after a knowledgeable citizen noticed the birds, understood that they were subject to the protections of the MBTA, and alerted Fish & Wildlife Service Special Agents.