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Federal charges against residents are misdemeanors

Three Mobridge residents were among the additional sixteen individuals that have been indicted for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Jeff Jensen, 53, Amanda Silbernagel, 30, and Steve Marin, 46, all of Mobridge were among those in the latest round of indictments resulting from an investigation dubbed Project Dakota Flyer. These indictments are in addition to the 15 individuals that were indicted earlier this year.
United States Attorney Randolph J. Seiler on Friday, Sept. 29, announced the indictments are a result of a two-year undercover operation.
Public tips to the Fish and Wildlife Service launched Project Dakota Flyer, which has included 200 names potentially involved in the illegal trafficking of eagles and other protected birds.
The charges against Jensen, Silbernagel and Marin are misdemeanor charges according to Seiler. He said the decision whether to file felony or misdemeanor charges was based primarily based on the number of transactions conducted by those indicted.
Seiler said the maximum punishment for the misdemeanor charges was a year in custody and /or $100,000 in fines and restoration. He said restoration will be based on $10,000 per eagle taken.
The initial court appearances for the Mobridge residents will be Thursday, Oct. 12, in Federal Court in Aberdeen before federal magistrate judge William Gerdes.
Officials reported that for more than two years, confidential informants made their way into the ring, which spanned across nine states and into Canada and obtained audio and video proof of the illegal trafficking transactions.
Investigators said the birds were mostly shot, and buyers, once proven they were trustworthy, were invited to use a secret site to communicate with sellers. The two parties then met in various locations, including secondhand shops in western South Dakota.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.
Officials also said 40 different species, including eagles, hawks and owls, and between 200 to 250 total birds, at minimum, were trafficked as part of the operation.
Punishments for these violations can vary based on the severity of the offense, the birds affected and the record of the individual charged. Misdemeanor violations can lead to fines up to $500 and up to six months in jail, while felony violations (typically crimes connected with an intent to sell, trade or barter birds) can have fines up to $2,000 and up to two years in jail. If multiple birds are affected, sentences can be stacked, leading to far more substantial fines and lengthy jail sentences.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
– Katie Zerr –