Orange County Man Who Attempted to Smuggle ‘Good Luck’ Songbirds Dodges Prison

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LOS ANGELES—An Orange County man was sentenced April 12 to three years probation and time already served for attempting to run endangered “good luck” songbirds into Los Angeles from Vietnam.

Quang Truong, 54, of Westminster, pleaded guilty in 2017 to a federal conspiracy charge after his arrest at Los Angeles International Airport.

When LAX screeners checked Mr. Truong’s luggage following the 8,000-mile journey, they found more than two dozen birds in suitcases rigged to include hidden cages.

The tiny Chinese hwamei songbirds—which can cost a few dollars apiece in Southeast Asia—fetch up to $1,000 when sold illegally at certain Chinese markets in Southern California and are thought to bring good luck.

Mr. Truong had been detained five months before the LAX arrest by Vietnamese officials on suspicion of attempting to smuggle the high-value birds, prosecutors said.

Mr. Truong was going to be paid $2,000 for smuggling the songbirds into the United States, according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.

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A co-conspirator, Sony Dong, 61, of Garden Grove, was sentenced in 2018 to 18 months in federal prison for conspiring to smuggle the songbirds into Los Angeles. He was arrested in December 2016 at LAX while awaiting the arrival of Mr. Truong’s China Airlines flight from Vietnam.

Mr. Dong admitted in his plea deal that for several years, he paid a courier to travel to Vietnam and smuggle back the colorful birds, which are at risk of extinction and protected under the federal Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

In 2010, Mr. Dong was sentenced to four months in federal prison after he was found with 14 live Asian songbirds, individually wrapped in cloth, strapped to his legs and ankles as he tried to pass through LAX following a 15-hour flight from Vietnam.

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