Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Release: Philadelphia, Mississippi pawn shop owner sentenced for selling eagle feathers

Press Release: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region
April 23, 2008

On April 18, 2008, a Philadelphia, Mississippi, pawn shop owner, Willis
R. McKee, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Jackson to a
misdemeanor count of selling a Native American dance bustle made with
bald eagle feathers. McKee was sentenced by United States Magistrate
Judge James C. Sumner to pay fines totaling $5,050 and to serve
probation until such fines were paid. The eagle feather bustle and
other illegal wildlife items were forfeited to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service.

An investigation led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of
Law Enforcement documented that on October 28, 2006, McKee sold the
eagle feather bustle for $534.99, in violation of the Bald and Golden
Eagle Protection Act. The investigation also documented that McKee
offered to sell other Native American ceremonial items made with Canada
goose and turkey vulture feathers in violation of the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act. McKee had obtained the illegal items from a customer of his
pawn business.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will work closely with the state and
tribal authorities to enforce laws and regulations to prevent the
unlawful commercialization of eagles and protected migratory birds,”
said John Rawls, Special Agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
with assistance from the Wildlife and Parks Department and Police
Department from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian Reservation, and
the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. The case was prosecuted
by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.

For more information about federal laws governing hunting migratory
birds, visit

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others
to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their
habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more
information, visit and