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Case Number: 5:20-cr-01549
Judge: Marina Garcia Marmolejo
Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Webb County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States District Attorney’s Office
Description: Laredo, Texas criminal defense Lacey Act lawyer represented Defendant charged with illegally selling hummingbirds.
Cecilia Castaneda, 63, and Maria Luisa Garza-Salazar, 57, were charged with illegally selling hummingbirds. Castaneda owned and operated Herbario Corpus Christi, a business specializing in herbs and spices. Garza-Salazar was her employee.
Both women were charged under the Lacey Act for selling dried or parts of more than 160 hummingbirds. The Lacey Act still protects the migratory birds although they are no longer an endangered species. The law makes it a crime to import, sell, receive or acquire any wildlife which have been possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law.
Dried hummingbirds, or parts of the birds, are illegally packaged and sold commercially as love charms together with prayer cards. The hummingbirds are typically packaged in a paper sleeve and surrounded with red threads or envelopes.
In a companion case, Maria Guadalupe Garcia, 55, Laredo, admitted to selling more than 200 hummingbirds Oct. 28. She owned and operated Herbario Lupita, an herbal shop located in Laredo.
“These guilty pleas send a clear message to wildlife traffickers that we and our law enforcement partners are in the business of identifying and apprehending those who exploit protected species for commercial gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Phillip Land of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS-OLE.) “We thank the U. S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas for holding these individuals responsible for their actions.”
Castaneda is set for sentencing Aug. 10, while Garcia’s hearing is scheduled for June 22. At those times, they each face up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
The FWS – OLE conducted the investigation with the assistance of Texas Game Wardens. Assistant U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno is prosecuting the case.
Sale of Wildlife Taken in Violation of Federal Law. PENALTY: not more than 5 years of imprisonment and /or not more than a $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, not more than 3 years term of supervised release.
Outcome: Defendant pleaded guilty.
05/12/2021 Minute Entry for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jason B Libby: RE-ARRAIGNMENT held on 5/12/2021 as to Cecilia Castaneda (1). Defendant pled Guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment. Written plea agreement/written factual basis filed. Defense would like for the factual basis to serve as Defendant's Acceptance of Responsibility. Defendant waives right to be present in Court and consents to proceed with guilty plea by Video Conference and consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge. Court covers all Rule 11 admonishments, including but not limited to an explanation of the charges, applicable penalties, rights, and all waivers. The Court verifies counsel reviewed the Written Plea Agreement (WPA) with the Defendant and further verifies Defendants request for the Court to adopt the WPA. Factual basis will serve as AOR for PSR purposes. Deft acknowledges no threats or coercion and understanding of appellate waivers to include right to appeal the conviction, sentence, and right to collateral attacks. Only maintains right to raise ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Court makes a number of special findings due to the national emergency created by the novel corona virus. Standing Order on Procedures for sentencing to follow. Appeal Waived: Yes. Counsel present for PSI Interview? Yes. Appearances:AUSA David Fawcett. David Almaraz. USPO-Rosario Sanchez. USM-Justin Villarreal. (Digital # 9:41:20-10:08:45)(ERO:annette martinez) (Interpreter:juanita zambrana) Deft continued on bond, filed.(KendraPearson, 2) (Entered: 05/12/2021)
05/12/2021 106 STANDING ORDER ON PROCEDURES FOR SENTENCING BEFORE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE GARCIA MARMOLEJO as to Cecilia Castaneda. PSI Completion due by 6/17/2021 Sentencing set for 8/10/2021 at 09:00 AM before Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo ( Signed by Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo) Parties notified. (fcarbia, 2) (Entered: 05/12/2021)
05/12/2021 107 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS as to Cecilia Castaneda ( Signed by Magistrate Judge Jason B Libby) Parties notified. (gsalinas, 5) (Entered: 05/12/2021)
05/12/2021 108 Unopposed MOTION to Return Passport by Maria Luisa Garza-Salazar, filed. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Paul, John) (Entered: 05/12/2021)
05/12/2021 109 ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION - Guilty Plea as to Cecilia Castaneda re: 107 Report and Recommendations ( Signed by Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo) Parties notified. (gsalinasadi, 5) (Entered: 05/12/2021)