A 36-year-old man was arrested at New York’s JFK International Airport after customs officials discovered he was trying to smuggle 35 live finches into the country so that those birds could be used in singing contests, CBS News reports.
A complaint says that Kevin Andre McKenize attempted to do this by wearing dozens of mesh-covered—so the birds could breathe—cylindrical containers attached to his jacket and ankles.
The complaint goes on to say he “concealed in his suit jacket and beneath his pants legs, with each bird hidden inside a hair curler.”
Authorities say that McKenzie claimed he was offered $3,000 per bird to transport them from the Guyanese capital of Georgetown to the U.S. He says he received $500 before leaving, and was set to get the rest of the money after the delivery was made.
CBS News writes that finches are valued for their singing, and that competitions that involve them doing that are regularly held in New York, usually with money on the line. Also, finches from Guyana are apparently in extra-high demand because of how well they sing.
“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,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent Kathryn McCabe. “Many who attend the singing contests wager on the birds. A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for more than $10,000.”
McKenzie was released from custody after posting a $25,000 bond.
Also, for those looking for visuals of this elaborate scheme, here you go: