New York: Janitor changes tune- admits to smuggling 34 songbirds from Guyana

Francis Gurahoo

“I’m nervous and scared,” Gurahoo told a federal judge Thursday before pleading guilty. “I was a passenger on a flight from Guyana to the United States. I had in my possession 34 finches. I knew these finches had to be declared to customs … I know this was illegal.”         

Gurahoo is the latest in a long line of finch smugglers from Guyana, according to law enforcement. The birds, while not illegal, need to be declared to customs and possibly quarantined to stop the spread of disease.

The seized birds

Smugglers bring finches into the U.S. from Guyana to have them compete in singing contests in parks, where they compete against each other and a judge selects the best crooner. Members of the audience put wagers on the birds.

According to authorities, the tiny seed-eating Pavarottis are often entered in “singing contests in Brooklyn and Queens…often conducted in public areas like parks” where two birds are judged for the best voice while spectators bet on their favorite feathered American Idol.

If the finch has a prize-worthy chirp at The Voice-like competitions, it becomes valuable and can sell for in excess of $5,000, according to authorities.

Guyanese songbirds are considered to have better voices than other finches, according to the complaint.

“Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more highly sought after. An individual willing to smuggle finches into the United States from Guyana can earn a large profit by selling these birds in the New York area,” the complaint reads.

Gurahoo planned on selling the birds for about US$3,000 each — a possible windfall of US$100,000.
“It’s a very technical crime;` the birds are not illegal,” said Gurahoo’s lawyer, Eric Pack,

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