Customs officials at Miami International Airport made a strange discovery while patting down an elderly Miami man returning from Havana.
On October 20, they found 16 “Negritos de Cuba” -- that is, Cuban bullfinches -- in 76-year-old Alberto Diaz Gonzalez's pants.
He had concealed the birds in hidden pockets as well as in plastic containers stuffed in his trousers, according to the Federal Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Before the pat down, Gonzalez denied carrying any wildlife on his declaration card as well as when asked by customs officers. Once the birds were discovered, he admitted to his plans of selling the small birds once back in the U.S.
Thursday Gonzalez plead guilty to violating the federal anti-smuggling statute.
He faces a possible maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison, to be followed by up to 3 years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
Wildlife must be declared so that United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Customs and Border Protection can decide whether to quarantine the species to ward off spread of disease.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cuba is considered a high-risk source country for high pathogenic avian influenza and exotic Newcastle’s disease.
(Flickr photo by JAC6.FLICKR.)