Two Orange County men accused of involvement in a scheme to smuggle tiny Asian songbirds into Los Angeles from Vietnam pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges.
Quang Truong and Sony Dong were each assigned Feb. 7 trial dates — Truong in Santa Ana federal court and Dong in a Los Angeles courtroom, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Mitchell.
Dong, 54, of Garden Grove, previously served four months behind bars after pleading guilty in 2009 to federal charges of illegally importing wildlife.
He was arrested last month at Los Angeles International Airport while awaiting the arrival of Truong’s China Airlines flight from Vietnam, according to court papers.
Truong, 44, of Westminster had been arrested in April by Vietnamese officials on suspicion of smuggling the birds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
When airport screeners at LAX checked Truong’s luggage following the 8,000-mile journey on Dec. 3, they found more than two-dozen birds in two suitcases modified to include cages, according to court documents.
The recovered birds included the Chinese Hwamei (Garrulax canorus), a tiny songbird which reportedly costs less than $30 in Vietnam but could fetch around $400 or more on California’s black market.
–City News Service