A two-year undercover operation that led to indictments against 15 people for illegally trafficking eagles and other migratory birds uncovered what one prosecutor called a “chop shop” for eagles.
The case in federal court in South Dakota offers a rare window into the black market for eagle feathers, parts and handicrafts, including one alleged dealer who called himself the “best feather man in the Midwest.”
Dan Rolince is U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s regional law enforcement chief. He says the illegal trade has been a persistent problem. But he expects the new case to be among the largest his agency has handled as more charges are added.
Indicted Individuals include:
Troy Fairbanks, 52 of Rapid City, SD
Majestic Fairbanks, 22, Rapid City, SD
Troy Young Fairbanks, 24, Rapid City, SD
Alvin Brown Jr, 37, Ethete, WY
Michael Primeaux, 32, Parmelee, SD
Juan Mesteth, 39, Pine Ridge, SD
Aaron David West, 62, Eagle Butte, SD
Aaron David West, Jr, 33, Eagle Butte, SD
Jorge Pena, 44, Mt. Vernon, IA
Valencia Neck, 38, Parmelee, SD
Benjamin Iron Hawk, 44, Kyle, SD
Chet Christensen, 66, Tuthill, SD
Ronald Fisher, 64, Kyle, SD
Gary Fisher, 69, Gordon, NE
David Jasper, 60, Box Elder, SD
Initial appearances have been set for Monday, May 1st in Rapid City and Thursday May 4th, in Pierre, SD. The case is being investigated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.