Father, son plead guilty in illegal eagle trafficking

By The Associated Press

RAPID CITY — A father and his adult son have pleaded guilty in South Dakota to federal charges in a widespread case that offered a glimpse into the illegal trafficking of eagles and other protected birds.

Troy Fairbanks and his son, Majestic Fairbanks, were among 30 people and pawn shops indicted in 2017 as part of a two-year investigation into the black market trade of eagle carcasses, eagle parts and feathers.

Prosecutors say they found more than 100 eagle carcasses or eagle parts in the Fairbanks’ Rapid City home, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Eagle heads or wings can fetch hundreds of dollars, though sellers sometimes exchange the eagle parts for other animal parts, such as bear claws, buffalo horn caps or animal hides. The eagle parts are often used in Native American-style handicrafts.

Undercover investigators say they purchased protected bird parts from suspects in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and Iowa.

Troy Fairbanks pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Rapid City to wildlife trafficking conspiracy, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. Majestic Fairbanks pleaded guilty to violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which is punishable by up to one year in prison. Last month, Majestic’s brother, Troy Young Fairbanks, pleaded guilty to violating that act.

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