A federal jury convicted four people of smuggling exotic birds worth an estimated $250,000 into the United States from Cuba as some of the key evidence squawked for water in Spanish.
"Agua!" a scarlet macaw cried as the jury deliberated Wednesday.A fifth defendant was acquitted on all charges but remains in custody in a separate cocaine case. All those convicted face up to 10 years in prison.
"This isn't just a wildlife case; this is a money case," Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Gelber said in closing arguments. "According to the information we have recieved, the parrot carries a price tag of $3,000, the macaw $2,500. They were going to make a lot of money."
The five were arrested on a boat off the Florida Keys in April. Six of the 243 confiscated birds, including the macaw, a Cuban Amazon parrot, a pair of melodious finches and a mustached parakeet, were brought into court as evidence.