There are hustlers out there, and then there’s Kevin Andre McKenzie, the man arrested at JFK Airport in New York on Monday after authorities caught him strapped down with 35 live finches hanging inside hair curlers. And it gets even better. The finches were to be used in high-stakes singing competitions in Brooklyn and Queens, according to the New York Post.
McKenzie, who was on a flight from Georgetown, Guyana, told authorities he was offered $3,000 to smuggle the birds into the United States, which, it seems, is a major problem. The U.S. government isn’t playing games here. They know these Guyanese ringers could ruin the U.S. finch singing business, and they’re putting a stop to it.
“In such contests, often conducted in public areas like parks, two finches sing and a judge selects the bird determined to have the best voice,” the U.S. government wrote in its complaint against McKenzie. “A finch who wins these competitions becomes valuable and can sell for more than $10,000.”
“Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more valuable.”
McKenzie now faces a charge of intentionally and unlawfully importing and bringing into the United States merchandise contrary to law.
In 2015, the New York Times wrote about the finch-singing competition industry and the men who will go to great lengths to own the best singers in the business. The industry was so crazy back then that the government opened Operation G-Bird, where “agents monitored online finch forums and talked to informants in Subway restaurants and McDonald’s parking lots.”
As for the value of the Guyanese birds, there’s some serious money changing hands to get the A-list birds. U.S. government documents obtained by the Times state that the birds can be purchased for $5 in Guyana and flipped for $500 to $10,000 in the U.S., depending on their background and singing ability.
And there you go, that’s why Kevin’s the latest finch mule to be busted. It’s just what these people do. The Mexicans love selling their drugs in the U.S. The Guyanese love exporting finches. It’s all about the hustle.