A man was arrested at JFK Airport in New York City and accused of attempting to smuggle 35 finches into the US that were stuffed inside hair curlers hidden in his clothes.
Kevin Andre McKenzie, 36, was arrested on Monday following airport agents discovering the birds concealed in his clothes after he deplaned from a JetBlue flight from Georgetown, in the South American country Guyana.
US Customs and Border Protection agents found the finches inside curlers that Mr McKenzie allegedly covered with a mesh cloth before hiding inside his trousers and jacket, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York.
Prosecutors claim in the court filing that Mr McKenzie told them that he had been offered $3,000 (£2,156) to transport the 35 finches to the US.
Following his arrest at JFK on Monday, Mr McKenzie was charged with the illegal importation of wildlife, according to the complaint.
Mr McKenzie was released on a $25,000 (£17,971) bond following his arrest and could spend up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges.
The investigators explained that the Guyanese variety of finches is desired in the US for its singing, as they are sought after so that they can be entered into competitions in Brooklyn and Queens.
“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,” the complaint explains.
“A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for more than $10,000 (£7,184),” prosecutors added.
Mr McKenzie is not the first person from Guyana arrested at JFK this month for allegedly attempting to smuggle birds into the US.
A man was arrested in early April with prosecutors claiming that he was found with 29 live birds smuggled on his person stuffed inside pink and orange plastic rollers.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies