U.S. Attorney: Do NOT Mess With the Peregrine Falcons … Seriously

Feds charge three in a conspiracy involving the birds and the Girard Point Bridge.

The Girard Point Bridge — aka the bridge you always get stuck on when you’re running late for a flight — has long been a nesting place for peregrine falcons, a species that is protected by both the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Pennsylvania Endangered Species Act. And now, a trio of men, including a guy they call “Russian Mike,” is in trouble for allegedly disturbing a peregrine falcon nest on the bridge and then lying about it.

Nikolaos Frangos, George Capuzello, and Mikhael Zubialevich (aka Russian Mike) were part of the huge $70 million repair project on the Girard Point Bridge that began in 2009. Frangos’ company was hired to paint the bridge, with Capuzello acting as foreman and Zubialevich part of the painting crew.

The painters were prohibited from working near the nests during nesting season, but according to an indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia, the crew violated that rule, operating sanders and other equipment near a nest. The falcons “became frightened and disturbed, and abandoned their nest,” reads the indictment.

The U.S. Attorney alleges that the men then convinced an innocent man to take the fall, because the real perpetrator (or at least one of them) was an illegal alien, and Capuzello certainly didn’t want to get in trouble for employing one of those.

All three men were charged with conspiracy, witness tampering, and harboring an alien, and Capuzello was also charged with perjury. If convicted, the men could face a combined 95 years in prison.

The government has apparently spent a lot of time and money investigating the case of the Girard Point Bridge Peregrine Falcons. The investigation included the FBI, the Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation, the EPA, the Social Security Administration, the Homeland Security Investigations division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General.

Photo: Aviceda via Creative Commons/Wikipedia