Two men were arrested Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport after federal authorities said they tried to smuggle songbirds into the country by hiding them in hair curlers.
Victor Benjamin, a 72-year-old Brooklyn man, and Insaf Ali, a 57-year-old Bronx resident, were caught with 26 finches at JFK Airport after being selected for a customs examination, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York. The pair had been flying in from Georgetown, Guyana.
Authorities said a search revealed that Benjamin and Ali had the finches concealed in hair curlers, which they then stashed in their socks. Benjamin allegedly had 14 birds; Ali had 12.
The birds were confiscated and placed in sanitary cages. They were set to be transferred to the U.S Department of Agriculture.
Benjamin and Ali have both been released on $20,000 bond and are awaiting trial. If convicted, they can serve up to 20 years in prison each.
According to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services, people can enter finches into singing contests. A judge decides between the two birds which has the best voice, and the winning bird can be fetch $5,000.
While finches are available in the U.S, species of the bird from Guyana are believed to have better voices, and are therefore worth more.
Attorney information for the two men wasn't immediately available.