A complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn indicates that Gurahoo hid the birds inside of plastic hair curlers that were located in his carry-on luggage. The act was part of a larger scheme to sell the finches for profit on a Brooklyn and Queens bird-singing circuit.
"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,” Gabriel Harper, a special agent of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, explained in the complaint. “Many who attend the singing contests wager on the birds. A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for in excess of $5,000.”
“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,” Harper added.
The complaint goes on to state that Gurahoo admitted to the crime and that he’d planned to sell each finch for approximately $3,000, which would have amounted to a total of $102,000, had he been able to remain undetected by officials with the US Customs and Border Protection.
“The defendant further stated that he knew what he did was wrong, but was motivated by potential financial gain,” court documents state.
According to the New York Post, Gurahoo was arraigned Monday and charged with unlawful wildlife smuggling following his Sunday arrest. He was eventually released to his family after his $25,000 bond was posted.
In 2018, two New York residents were arrested at JFK Airport for the same reason after officials found 26 finches hidden inside hair curlers they had placed inside socks in their luggage. Just like Gurahoo, the pair’s scheme was discovered when they were chosen for random inspection by customs officials.