Tampa Court Sentences Man For Bizarre Crime Of Trafficking Exotic Birds
In the Middle District of Florida, a federal jury recently found Ernesto Gonzalez Campos guilty on three counts related to the trafficking of migratory birds. This conviction marks the latest development in the ongoing “Operation Ornery Birds II,” which has already led to the sentencing of five other individuals in the same district. “Operation Ornery Birds II” represents a comprehensive investigation conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission throughout the state of Florida.
Court documents and trial evidence revealed that Mr. Campos, a 36-year-old resident of Brandon, Florida, was involved in the ongoing capture, sale, and exchange of protected migratory songbirds. Between 2020 and 2021, he unlawfully sold and traded indigo buntings, painted buntings, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and blue grosbeaks, all of which are safeguarded under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Mr. Campos captured these birds from the wild, tamed them, and subsequently traded them with the songbird enthusiast community.
Prior to Mr. Campos’ conviction, five other individuals from Florida had previously pleaded guilty and received sentences in the U.S. District Court in Tampa. These individuals admitted to engaging in activities such as purchasing, selling, or bartering various MBTA-protected birds. These birds are highly sought after due to their vibrant plumage and melodious singing abilities. The defendants employed a range of methods to acquire these protected wildlife, including baited bird traps and the exchange, purchase, or sale of specimens within a network of like-minded individuals, both through in-person transactions and internet sales platforms frequented by bird traffickers.
This is a list of individuals and their sentences:
- Jorge Luis Mena Graveram Sr., 59, of St. Petersburg, was sentenced on Aug. 8 to time served, one year of supervised release and a $200 fine.
- Eliernesto Baez Garcia, 29, of St. Petersburg, was sentenced on Aug. 14 to time served, one year of supervised release and a $200 fine.
- Ariam Rodriguez Diaz, 32, of Ocala, was sentenced on Aug. 18 to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine.
- Jorge Alberto Gonzalez-Gonzalez, 57, of Tampa, was sentenced on Sept. 6 to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine.
- Adrian Michel Ortega Rodriguez, 42, of Tampa, was sentenced on Sept. 11 to one year of probation and a $500 fine.