2 men arrested for attempting to smuggle birds from Guyana in hair curlers

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2 arrested for trying to smuggle birds in hair curlers

Two men have been arrested after attempting to smuggle little birds from Guyana in hair curlers.

The men were arrested Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport and charged for illegally smuggling finches, federal prosecutors said.

The 26 birds were found stuffed in the curlers and placed in their socks.

The men have been identified as Victor Benjamin, 72, of Brooklyn and Insaf Ali, 57, of the Bronx.

"My investigation has revealed that individuals keep finches to enter them in singing contests," said Gabriel Harper of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York. "In such contests, often conducted in public areas like parks, two finches sing and a judge selects the bird determined to have the best voice."

Those who attend the singing contests wager on the birds. A finch who wins can sell for $5,000 or more, Harper said.

"Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more highly sought after," Harper said in the complaint. "An individual willing to smuggle finches into the United States from Guyana can earn a large profit by selling these birds in the New York area."

Benjamin and Ali were released on a $20,000 bond. They did not enter a plea.

If convicted they face up to 20 years in prison.

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ABC News contributed to this report.
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