Feds bust eagle trafficking case in undercover operation
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – Federal officials in South Dakota have indicted 15 peopled for illegally trafficking eagles and other migratory birds after a two-year undercover operation potentially involving hundreds of birds.
U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler said on April 24 that officials expect “significant” additional federal charges in the case, which focused on trafficking of eagles and eagle parts and feathers for profit. Authorities said the case involves more than 100 eagles, a number that could climb as high as 250.
Seiler described one operation as basically a “chop-shop for eagles” in which eagle feathers were stuffed into garbage bags. He said it was clear that it was a moneymaking operation and that the feathers and eagle parts such as talons and beaks were treated as merchandise.
“There was no cultural sensitivity. There was no spirituality,” Seiler said. “There was no tradition in the manner in which these defendants handled these birds.”
He said the investigation involved confidential informants, a multi-state area and the purchase of regalia items such as ceremonial fans. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office said in an email that there are a variety of reasons why people buy eagle parts, and a collectors market plays a role.
Dan Rolince, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assistant special agent in charge of law enforcement for the region, said that some of those accused used code words to avoid detection by describing the eagle and other bird parts for sale using the names of animals or even car parts. He said the eagles were primarily shot.
“At the end of this process, I have full confidence that it will be one of the largest cases of this nature we’ve ever worked,” he said.
Three Rapid City men charged in the case are involved with Buffalo Dreamers, which performs Native American dance programs. Owner Troy Fairbanks has been charged with conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking and violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Lacey Act.
Fairbanks, 54, allegedly sold or traded eagle parts to an informant including a golden eagle head for $250, a trade involving about $5,400 of legal merchandise for eagle parts and selling two sets of eagle wings for $900. Rolince said that a whole eagle carcass would generally sell for between $1,000 and $1,200.
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Management & Consulting’s centennial planning team was recently honored with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Col. John Magruder Award. The team is being recognized for its Marine Corps Reserve Centennial Exhibit inside the Pentagon.
The three honorees – Gunnery Sgt. Elizabeth Ingles, Gunnery Sgt. Brian Knowles and Cori Parker, project leader for Cherokee Nation Management and Consulting – were recognized for their collaborative efforts in researching, curating and designing the exhibit.
“It is an honor to receive an award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation for this display,” said Parker. “Our team is proud to showcase the Marine Corps Reserve with this enduring historical artwork in the Pentagon.”
Design and construction of the exhibit was a key project in an awareness-building campaign, marking the 100th anniversary of the Marine Corps Reserve. The exhibit spans 34 feet and is located within the “A” Ring of the Pentagon.
During a recent ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, each member of the centennial planning team received a medal and an engraved brick to be placed in the nearby Semper Fidelis Park. The two gunnery sergeants also received a cash prize.
The Marine Corps Reserve Centennial Exhibit, now a permanent fixture within a high visibility area of the Pentagon, serves as a continuous reminder of the enormous sacrifices and contributions Reserve Marines have made to help shape the reputation of the Marine Corps.
CNMC, formed in 2015, provides technical support services and project support personnel to its defense and civilian agency partners. The company provides a tailored management approach for complex government programs and disciplines, including information technology, science, engineering, construction, research and development, facilities management, program management, and mission support. It is headquartered in Tulsa and is part of the Cherokee Nation Businesses family of companies. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeenationbusinesses.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeenationbusinesses.com</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At a June 26 special meeting, the Election Commission amended the contract of Commissioner Carolyn Allen by adding $15,600.
The commission also voted to give EC clerk Kendall Bishop its Employee Appreciation Award for Employee of the Year. She will receive it during the Cherokee Nation’s employee appreciation picnic on June 30.
The EC also approved minutes from the June 13 regular and June 5 special meetings.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – According to a U.S. Attorney’s Office release, 12 people, including some Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens, were charged with marriage fraud conspiracy and related charges, for entering into sham marriages for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws.
Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, said the indictments were unsealed on June 21 naming Ruth Marie Sequoyah McCoy, 54, of Cherokee; Timothy Ray Taylor, 41, of Cherokee; Golan Perez, 38, of Cherokee; Ofir Marsiano, 41, of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; Kaila Nikelle Cucumber, 27, of Cherokee; Jessica Marie Gonzalez, 26, of Cherokee; Jordan Elizabeth Littlejohn, 28, of Cherokee; Kevin Dean Swayney, 36, of Cherokee; Ilya Dostanov, 28, of Panama City, Florida; Ievgenii Reint, 26, of St. Simons Island, Georgia; Shaul Levy, 26, of Norfolk, Virginia; and Yana Peltz, 30, of Israel.
The release states all defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Marsiano is also charged with four counts of marriage fraud, and McCoy and Perez are each charged with three counts of marriage fraud. Taylor, Cucumber, Gonzalez, Littlejohn, Swayney, Dostanov, Levi and Peltz each face one additional count of marriage fraud.
According to allegations in the indictment, beginning in or about June 2015, and continuing through December 2016, in Swain and Jackson counties, the defendants engaged in a fraudulent marriage scheme, in which foreign nationals paid to enter into fraudulent marriages with U.S. citizens to secure lawful permanent residence in the U.S. The indictment alleges McCoy, Perez and Marsiano arranged the marriages by connecting U.S. citizens, including Cucumber, Gonzalez, Littlejohn, and Swayney, with non-citizens, including Dostanov, Reint and Peltz. The non-U.S. citizens typically would pay $1,500 to $3,000 in exchange for the services.
The indictment alleges once paired, the U.S. citizens and non-citizens would travel to Sevier County, Tennessee, and enter into fraudulent marriages with each other. The indictment states that, in most cases, after obtaining their marriage certificates, the non-citizens applied for adjustments to their immigration statuses based on their marriages to their U.S. spouses.
The indictment further alleges that, at times, McCoy and Taylor also acted as “sponsors” for the non-citizens’ applications for adjustments to their immigration statuses, and in exchange, they received additional monetary compensation.
Of the 12 defendants charged, seven were arrested on June 21 and appeared in federal court on the charges. Littlejohn, Dostanov, Reint, Levy and Peltz had not been arrested as of publication.
The marriage fraud conspiracy and marriage fraud charges each carry a maximum prison term of five years, per count.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge won't decide until later this year whether to shut down the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline while federal officials conduct a more thorough environmental review.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Wednesday approved a schedule under which both sides in a lawsuit over the pipeline will submit written arguments on the matter in July and August.
"We would expect a decision sometime after that, probably September," said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux, which filed the lawsuit last summer that was later joined by three other Sioux tribes.
The Standing Rock tribe sued because it believes the $3.8 billion pipeline built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners threatens cultural sites and its water supply. The company disputes that and maintains the pipeline is safe.
The long-delayed project was finished earlier this year after President Donald Trump took office and called for its completion. On June 1, the pipeline began moving North Dakota oil to a distribution point in Illinois, from which it's shipped to the Gulf Coast.
But Boasberg last week ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the pipeline, didn't adequately consider how an oil spill might affect the tribe. He ordered the agency to reconsider parts of its environmental analysis.
About 50 anti-pipeline protesters rallied outside the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., during Wednesday's hearing. They sang, chanted, held signs with messages such as "water is life" and gave speeches in support of the tribe.
"If that (pipeline) spills, it means game over," said the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus activist group. "It means they can't wash, they can't clean, they can't feed their children. It means their way of life ends."
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State environmental officials say elevated mercury levels in fish have been found in 14 more lakes in Oklahoma than last year.
The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality plans a public meeting for Tuesday to discuss the mercury levels. The agency says a total of 54 lakes have mercury advisories — which is up 14 since the last advisory in 2016.
The advisories deal with mercury levels in fish and do not affect drinking water safety or lake recreational activities like swimming or boating.
The 14 new lakes added to the advisory are: Arcadia Lake, Birch Reservoir, Boomer Lake, Copan Reservoir, El Reno Lake, Greenleaf Reservoir, Lone Chimney Lake, Lake McMurtry, Lake Murray, Pawnee Lake, Lake Ponca, Lake Raymond Gary, Shell Lake and Waurika Reservoir.
HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. – While traveling the Trail of Tears’ northern route “Remember the Removal” cyclists visited sites where Cherokees stayed during their forced removal in the winter of 1838-39, with several sites housing graves of Cherokees who died along the trek.
The Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in Hopkinsville acted as a camping spot and gravesite during the removal.
Alice Murphree, Kentucky Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association president, said the site contains Chief Whitepath and Chief Fly Smith’s graves as well as a grave with unknown remains.
She said Whitepath, an assistant conductor with the Elijah Hicks detachment, died about 10 days after arriving at the site.
“He come sick coming out of Nashville, and as the trail proceeded he felt sicker and sicker. By the time they got to the spot at Hopkinsville he was so ill that the Elijah Hicks detachment had to leave him here and go on,” she said.
Murphree said Smith was “sickly” for most of the journey before dying at the site.
“Stephen Foreman (minister serving as assistant conductor of the Old Field detachment) and his wife stayed behind with him and that (Old Field) detachment moved on,” she said. “I guess it was just within a day or two. I don’t know exact dates, but they (chiefs) died within hours of one another. They (Foremans) went to the city and asked if they could bury him in the city. The city would not allow them to be buried there. The Latham family owned all of this property and agreed to let him be buried here.”
It is said that Cherokees are buried in Union County, Illinois, at the Camp Ground Church and Cemetery. Sandra Boaz, Illinois Chapter of the TOTA president, said it was determined by ground penetrating radar that there are around 10 ground anomalies the sizes of graves at the site.
“After 1834 a man by the name of Mr. Hileman took out a land patent and brought his family here. Sometime in the winter of 1837-38 he had two small preschool-aged children who passed away and he buried them, as family oral history says,” she said. “Then when the Cherokee came through…they had made arrangements for them to camp on this site. As they were stopped here due to the ice flows on the Mississippi River, naturally some of them passed away. So story says that Mr. Hileman had them buried out in the field by his little boys. So that was the basis for getting this site certified as a National Trail of Tears site with the National Park Service.”
For more information, visit www.nationaltota.com.