Two Ethete Men Named In Multi-state Wildlife Trafficking Conspiracy
Two men from Ethete were named among 15 defendants in a multiple-indictment, multi-state conspiracy of trafficking eagles and other migratory birds and their parts, according to federal court records filed in South Dakota on Monday.
The indictment was unsealed Monday following a two-year investigation, dubbed Project Dakota Flyer, according to a news release from South Dakota U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler.
There were seven other separate indictments of 12 other defendants. Besides Wyoming and South Dakota, the other defendants are from Nebraska and Iowa.
During a news conference in Rapid City, S.D., Seiler said he expects more significant federal charges in the case, which focused on trafficking of eagles and eagle parts and feathers for profit, according to a story in the Rapid City Journal.
"There was no cultural sensitivity. There was no spirituality," Seiler said. "There was no tradition in the manner in which these defendants handled these birds."
Authorities said the case, investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, involves more than 100 eagles, a number that could climb as high as 250.
Alvin Brown, Jr., and Michael Primeaux -- of the Northern Arapaho and Yankton Sioux tribes respectively -- and Juan Mesteth of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge, S.D., were charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wildlife Trafficking, and violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Lacey Act.
Mesteth also was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
According to this indictment, the three knew each other and trafficked in eagle and migratory birds among themselves, obtained eagles and parts from others they knew had illegally killed them in South Dakota and Wyoming, and offered eagles and parts for sale through electronic communications.
The indictment states a confidential informant contacted Mesteth in June 2015 and talked about buying and selling Native American trade goods including eagle feathers and parts. Mesteth later sold him fans made from migratory bird feathers.
Mesteth told the informant he could get whole carcass eagles and would take the informant hunting. Mesteth have him Primeaux's name. The informant met Primeaux in Wyoming and sold fans with eagle feathers and bear claw pendants, hawk wings and eagle plumes.
Primeaux later took the informant to meet Brown in Ethete, and the informant later bought a bald eagle tail, a ferruginous hawk tail, two rough-legged hawk tails and one eagle bone.
Later that year, Brown told the informant about other species of protected an migratory bird feathers he had including a Philippine serpent eagle, woodpeckers, Malaysian hornbills, water birds and a caracara.
The sales totaled thousands of dollars.