20 THE QUEENS COURIER • JUNE 20, 2019 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
BIRDMAN BUSTED AT JFK
Caught smuggling fi nches for singing contests
BY BILL PARRY
A Connecticut man was busted at JFK
International Airport on June 16 for
allegedly attempting to smuggle a bunch
of tiny birds into the U.S.
Francis Gurahoo, 39, was arrested aft er
his fl ight from Guyana aft er he was selected
for a customs examination, according
to the U.S. Attorney’s offi ce.
Th e search revealed Gurahoo possessed
34 live fi nches were concealed in his carry
on luggage, with each tiny bird hidden
inside a plastic hair curler, according to
the criminal complaint.
Finches are small seed-eating birds that
have become popular at singing contests
Hairdresser in Bayside seeks kidney donor for her son
BY JENNA BAGCAL
A Bayside hairdresser is calling on a
good Samaritan to donate a kidney to her
Georgia Tsapelas from Christie & Co.
Salon partnered with Long Island organization
Kidney Assist to fi nd a healthy kidney
donor for her son Demetrios Tsapelas.
As a child, doctors diagnosed the Long
Island resident with a condition that
blocked his urethra and caused irreparable
damage to his kidneys. Although doctors
were able to open Tsapelas’ urethra,
his kidneys only functioned at 25 percent
and they eventually failed him when he
was 20 years old.
Twelve years ago, Georgia Tsapelas
donated her kidney to her son and
described the process and recovery as
“easy.” Th e hairdresser said aft er a simple
laparoscopic surgery to extract the kidney,
she was back to her regular schedule within
two to three weeks.
But eventually, her kidney failed him,
too, which she credits to a high level of
stress in his personal life and a poor diet.
Now, Demetrios Tsapelas goes to dialysis
three times a week for three hours each
“He gets there at 5:30 p.m. and doesn’t
get home until aft er 10. It’s not a healthy
way for a young person to live,” said
A friend recommended that she connect
with Kidney Assist, a nonprofi t subsidiary
of Chabad at Th e Medical Centers
in Long Island. Th e organization, which
was founded in 2015, allows recipients to
bypass the long waiting list for a kidney
by bringing their own donors to the table.
According to Rabbi Boruch Wolf, co-director
of Chabad at Th e Medical Centers,
the process of donating a kidney is, in fact,
simple. Wolf donated a kidney to a complete
stranger when he was 25 years old.
Wolf shared that he had been a candidate
for bone marrow donation which
fell through aft er the hospital found a
more suitable donor. He knew a fellow
rabbi with eight children who donated
his kidney and decided to conduct more
research on the process.
He approached an organization in
Brooklyn to facilitate the donation to the
then 62-year-old man who needed a kidney.
“It was a second opportunity for me to
save a life,” Wolf said. “Th e reward is equal
for the donor as it is to the recipient.”
Th e donation process involves a testing
period to make sure donors and recipients
are a blood match. Doctors check
to ensure that donors can part with their
kidneys without physical and psychological
issues. Once individuals pass the evaluations,
they are cleared to move forward
Georgia Tsapelas said that she hopes
the easy process will entice good-hearted
people to step up and donate a kidney
to her son, who has O positive blood
type. She added that a healthy kidney will
allow him to live a better quality of life
and spend more time with his 3-year-old
“Th ere are millions of people waiting
for kidneys,” Tsapelas said. “I want people
to know how easy it is. You can save a lot
of people by donating.”
To fi nd out more about donating a
kidney to Demetrios Tsapelas or others,
contact Rabbi Boruch Wolf at
SaveDemetrios@gmail.com or by phone
at 516-360-0299. For more information,
visit the Kidney Assist website.
in Queens and Brooklyn, according
to an investigator from the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. In such contests, oft en
conducted in public areas like parks, two
fi nches sing and a judge selects the bird
determined to have the best voice.
Many who attend the singing contests
wager on the birds. A fi nch who wins
these competitions becomes valuable and
can sell for more than $5,000, according
to the criminal complaint.
Although certain species of fi nch are
available in the United States, species
from Guyana are believed to sing better
and are therefore more highly sought
aft er and an individual willing to smuggle
fi nches into the U.S. from Guyana can
earn a large profi t by selling the birds in
the New York area.
Federal agents said that Gurahoo had
signed a Customs and Border Protection
declaration that stated that he was entering
the U.S. without any wildlife, he was
then selected for a customs examination
that revealed the tiny songbirds.
Gurahoo allegedly admitted that he had
intended to smuggle the fi nches into the
country and to avoid quarantine by placing
the birds inside his carry-on luggage,
prosecutors noted. Th e defendant then
stated he intended to sell the fi nches for
around $3,000 each for a total of approximately
According to the criminal complaint,
Gurahoo further stated that he knew that
what he did was wrong but he was motivated
by fi nancial gain.
Searches of the USFWS databases
revealed that Gurahoo did not apply for
or receive a permit authorizing the importation
of the birds into the United States.
Photos courtesy of U.S. Attorney’s Offi ce for the Eastern District of New York
Photo courtesy of Georgia Tsapelas