Now this is one smuggling case that is really for the birds.
Duc Le, 34, and Sony Dong, 46, were named today in an eight-count indictment that charges both men with conspiracy.
Both men were collared last month after United States Fish & Wildlife Service investigators discovered that Dong had 14 live birds strapped to his legs at LAX, according to court documents. A search of Le’s residence uncovered 51 additional songbirds and numerous cages. All the birds seized are currently in quarantine.
Local news from across Southern California
The investigation started in mid-December when officials with Customs and Border Protection at Los Angeles International Airport discovered abandoned luggage that contained 18 birds, five of which were dead. Officials determined that Dong had checked the luggage while boarding a flight in Vietnam.
According to court documents, about one month ago, CBP learned that Dong had flown to Vietnam and was scheduled to return on April 13. When he arrived at LAX as scheduled, officials inspected Dong and found bird feathers and droppings on his socks, as well as birds' tail feathers visible under his pants.
After he was transported to a quarantine area, USFWS agents searched Dong and discovered 14 live birds attached to two flat pieces of cloth that were wrapped around his calves. The birds included three red-whiskered bul-buls (which is listed as an "injurious species" under federal law), four magpie robins and six shama thrushes.
If convicted of the charges contained in the indictment, Le faces a statutory maximum sentence of 26 years in federal prison, and Dong faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Of course, they could deal for less time if they sing on the stand.