Man arrested at airport for allegedly smuggling 34 birds hidden inside plastic hair curlers

U.S. Customs and Border Protection nabbed a passenger attempting to smuggling 34 singing finches, each concealed inside a plastic hair curler, inside his carry-on bag. (U.S. Customs and Border protection)

A Connecticut man was arrested at a New York City airport Sunday after returning from South America with nearly three dozen small live birds, each concealed in a plastic hair curler, hidden inside his carry-on luggage to be sold for high profit, police said.

Francis Gurahoo, 39, was selected for a customs examination at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens after returning from Guyana. US Customs and Border Protection officials discovered 34 live finches Gurahoo allegedly planned to sell to be used in lucrative bird-singing competitions in New York City.

Court documents state Gurahoo admitted "that he had intended to smuggle the birds inside of his carry-on luggage" to be sold for approximately $3,000 each, which would earn him about $102,000 total. Guyanese finches are used for bird singing competitions in Brooklyn and Queens, according to the CBP. Though finches are available in the U.S., Guyanese finches are considered to have better singing voices.

"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," court documents said, according to PIX 11. Prosecutors said that a bird's value rises to around $5,000 if it's crowned a champion.

US Customs and Border Protection said it seized approximately 200 finches in airports across the U.S. in 2018. In December, CBP nabbed a passenger flying into New York from Guyana with 70 live birds in a carry-on bag, also hidden inside of hair rollers.

Gurahoo was arraigned on Monday on a charge of unlawful wildlife smuggling and later released after family posted his $25,000 bond. A judge ordered his passport be seized and his travel restricted to New York City and Connecticut.