Project Dakota Flyer Nets 15 Defendants (Including American Indians) for Selling Eagles & Other Migratory Birds

Published April 25, 2017

Several American Indians are among those who were indicted

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA – United States Attorney Randolph J. Seiler announced on Monday, April 24, 2017, that fifteen individuals have been indicted for the illegal trafficking of eagles and other migratory birds. The Indictments are a result of a two-year undercover operation, dubbed Project Dakota Flyer.

he indictment states:

The informant made most of his purchases from the three tribal members in South Dakota and Wyoming and also from a Rapid City family calling themselves the Buffalo Dreamers who perform Native American dances at public venues such as Crazy Horse Monument and Custer State Park in the Black Hills.

The three tribal members who all knew each other and trafficked in eagle and migratory birds among themselves and with others are Alvin Brown Jr., 37, of Ethete, Wyo., Michael Primeaux, 32, of Parmelee on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and Juan Mesteth, 39, of Pine Ridge on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The informant started meeting with Mesteth at a gas station in Pine Ridge in summer 2015. That started their monthslong relationship after the informant bought a fan made of migratory bird feathers for $350. Exchanging texts, the two continued to meet, with several purchases made of eagle parts and those from other birds such as red-tailed hawks and a scarlet macaw.

During their talks, Mesteth told the informant he had “connects” in Wyoming who could get whole carcass eagles and would take him hunting for eagles. That’s when the informant met Brown and Primeaux in Wyoming and they started making deals. At his home in Ethete, Brown showed the informant an immature bald eagle tail while the three discussed eagle and hawk parts that Brown had for sale.

Later in the fall, Brown told the informant about other species of protected and migratory bird feathers he had at his home, including a Philippine serpent eagle, woodpeckers, Malaysian hornbills, water birds and a caracara. Brown said prices for the bald eagle tail feathers were $400 and hawk tails were $50 each.

Mesteth told the informant during one of his meetings that he received most of his feathers from Primeaux and Brown.

The three all are charged with conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking, violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act, with prison terms of up to five years and fines up to $250,000.

The other main group the informant started making numerous purchases with and who face the most charges are Troy Fairbanks, 54, of Rapid City and his two sons, Troy Young Fairbanks, 24 and Majestic Fairbanks, 22, who make up the Native American dance troupe.

After meeting through another person at a campground in 2014, the informant was invited to the Fairbanks’ home in Rapid City where he traded $5,415 of legal merchandise for eagle parts, namely wing and tail feathers, the indictment stated.

The relationship continued and the family started using “code words” to describe the different eagle parts, with at one point the informant buying a golden eagle head for $250, said the charges.

At one point, Troy Fairbanks said he had the ability to acquire 60 eagles and had 19 people in the Los Angeles area who wanted to buy eagle feathers or parts from him, said the indictment.

Troy Fairbanks also showed the informant numerous parts stored at his residence and said “he was very happy he was not a cop … because you would have popped me by now” and then referred to himself as the “best feather man in the Midwest.”

Troy Fairbanks is charged with conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking and violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Lacey Act. His two sons are both charged with conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking.

The other nine people charged face numerous counts of illegal trafficking of eagles and other birds, accused of selling or bartering parts.

Indicted Individuals Include:

Troy Fairbanks, 54, Rapid City, SD, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wildlife Trafficking, and violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Lacey Act: CR 17-50036

Majestic Fairbanks, 22, Rapid City, SD, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wildlife Trafficking: CR 17-50036

Troy Young Fairbanks, 24, Rapid City, SD, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wildlife Trafficking: CR 17-50036

Alvin Brown Jr., 37, Ethete, WY, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wildlife Trafficking, and violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Lacey Act: CR 17-50035

Michael Primeaux, 32, Parmalee, SD/ Ethete WY, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wildlife Trafficking, and violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR 17-50035

Juan Mesteth, 39, Pine Ridge, SD, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wildlife Trafficking, violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Felon in Possession of a Firearm: CR 17-50035

Aaron David West, 62, Eagle Butte, SD, charged with violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR-17-30051

Aaron David West Jr., 33, Eagle Butte, SD, charged with violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR-17-30051

Jorge Pena, 44, Mt. Vernon, IA, charged with violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR-17-50056

Valencia Neck, 38, Parmelee, SD, charged with violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR-17-30050

Benjamin Iron Hawk, 44, Kyle, SD, charged with violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR-17-30050

Chet Christensen, 66, Tuthill, SD, charged with violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR-17-30052

Ronald Fisher, 64, Kyle, SD, charged with violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR-17-50057

Gary Fisher, 69, Gordon, NE, charged with violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR-17-50057

David Jasper, 60, Box Elder, SD, charged with violations of the Lacey Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act: CR-17-30048

Initial appearances have been set for Monday May 1, 2017 in Rapid City, South Dakota and Thursday May 4, 2017 in Pierre, South Dakota. This case is being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Kelderman and Meghan N. Dilges are prosecuting the cases.

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This BBSNews article was syndicated from Native News Online, and written by Levi Rickert. Read the original article here.