Palm Beach County “Bird Bandit” Captured and Charged

September 4, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Theft/Property Crimes

The state of Florida has no current legislation for specifying the theft of animals or pets—instead, a person accused of stealing another person’s animal can be charged with theft. Depending on the value of the stolen animal, the charge may be considered petit or grand theft.

The search for the Palm Beach “bird bandit,” who was accused of stealing nearly 70 birds from a home residence, has been located. After being apprehended by police, the defendant is facing charges of burglary, grand theft, and petit theft.

This page will provide the case details, information about the relative offenses the defendant was charged with and provide insight on potential charges a defendant may face if the animal theft also involved any animal abuse.

Case Details

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBCSO) arrested Damian Ramallo, 44, after he allegedly stole over $10,000 worth of birds from a Lake Worth Beach home. According to the report, security camera video showed a man in a dark hat with an orange brim, a blue hoodie, and blue jeans outside of the home where the birds were stolen from.

Ramallo is alleged to have broken into the home and stolen 69 birds from their cages. After the first break in, Ramallo was further accused of returning to the residence a second time. During the second break in, the person depicted in the security camera footage was wearing a camouflaged jacket without anything covering his face.

In total, Ramallo is accused of stealing the following from the home:

  • 30 baby and adult cockatoos
  • 15 canaries
  • 20 pigeons
  • 4 parakeets

Teri Barbera, PBCSO spokeswoman, explained that Ramallo drew attention to himself from law enforcement by attempting to throw away evidence from the crime scene.

“After your media coverage the suspect started dumping evidence in the trash; hence, bringing attention to himself,” Barbera said.

Barbera also stated that only a few of the stolen birds have been recovered so far. Ramallo remains in Palm Beach County Jail, where he has been charged with armed burglary, grand theft, and petit theft.

Burglary Charges in Florida

Florida Statute Section 810.02(1)(b) defines the offense of burglary as when a person enters a dwelling, structure, or conveyance with the intent to commit an offense, unless the premises at the time are open to the public or the defendant is licensed to enter.

It is also considered burglary if the person is invited into the dwelling, structure, or conveyance but remains after permission has been withdrawn, or if the person intends to commit a criminal offense while inside.

The penalties for burglary depend on the specific details of the case.

If the burglary offense occurs in a conveyance or structure with no one present, without the defendant making an assault or battery while inside, and without the defendant becoming armed with a weapon or explosive, it is considered a third-degree felony. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

If the burglary offense occurs without the defendant making an assault or battery while inside, or if they do not become armed with a weapon or an explosive, it is considered a second-degree felony. The penalties for a second-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

However, the offense is considered a first-degree felony if during the commission of burglary, any of the following occurs:

  • The defendant commits an assault or battery upon any person;
  • The defendant becomes armed with a dangerous weapon or explosive while in the dwelling, structure, or conveyance; or
  • The defendant uses a motor vehicle as an instrumentality, other than merely a getaway car to assist in committing the offense, when it causes $1,000 or more in damages to the structure or property.

A first-degree felony has the penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years of imprisonment.

Theft Charges in Florida

Theft offenses are codified under Florida Statute Section 812.014 and can be charged as either petit theft or grand theft. The offense of theft is defined as when a person knowingly uses or obtains the property belonging to another person with the intent to either:

  • Deprive the owner of their right to property or benefit from the property; or
  • Appropriate the property to his or her own use to the use of another person not entitled to the use of the property.

The main difference between petit theft and grand theft is the valued amount of the stolen item or property.

Petit theft is considered any item or property stolen that is valued under $750.

If the petit theft offense results in stolen items or property valued under $100, it is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for a second-degree misdemeanor include up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

If the petit theft offense results in stolen items or property valued over $100 but less than $750, it is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

If the defendant has previously been convicted of any theft offense two or more times, the petit theft offense can be charged with a third-degree felony.

Potential Charges Surrounding Animal Abuse

Luckily, the case of the Bird Bandit did not mention any signs of animal abuse towards the stolen birds. However, if they had, there are specific laws in Florida surrounding the alleged abuse of animals. For instance, if the defendant committed a burglary offense to steal the birds to torment, poison, or kill them, he could be facing any of these additional charges:

  • Animal Cruelty – Florida Statute Section 828.12 defines animal cruelty as when a person unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done to any animal in a cruel or inhumane way. A standard charge for animal cruelty results in a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
  • Aggravated Animal Cruelty – Florida Statute Section 828.12(2) explains that aggravated animal cruelty occurs when a person commits an act to any animal that results in its cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering. Aggravated animal cruelty results in a third-degree felony, with penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
  • Animal Poisoning – Florida Statute Section 828.02 explains it is unlawful for any person to leave or deposit any poison or substance containing poison, in any common street, alley, lane, or thoroughfare of any kind, or in any yard or enclosure where an animal might reach it. The unlawful exposure of poison results in a first-degree misdemeanor.
  • Animal Confinement and Abandonment – Florida Statute Section 828.13 explains that any person who confines any animal in any place and fails to supply them with sufficient food and water, keeps any animal in an enclosure without proper exercise or change of air, or abandons any animal to die that is sick, maimed, infirm, or diseased, results in a first-degree misdemeanor.
  • Animal Fighting – Florida Statute Section 828.122 titled the “Animal Fighting Act” makes it a third-degree felony for any of the following acts:
    • Baiting, breeding, training, transporting, selling, owning, possessing, or using wild domestic animals to fight or bait;
    • Owning, possessing, or selling equipment for use in any animal fighting activity;
    • Owning, leasing, managing, operating, or having control over any property used for animal fighting;
    • Promoting, staging, advertising, or charging an admission fee for a fight or baiting between two animals;
    • Performing any service or act to facilitate animal fighting or baiting, such as providing security, refereeing, or handling or transporting animals; and/or
    • Removing or facilitating the removal of any animal impounded from an agency where the animal is fighting or baiting.

Contact a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one are facing any of the above criminal charges involving theft or animals, it is in your best interest to speak with a legal representative. Florida has strict penalties in place for theft crimes, and if you are convicted you could be forced to pay expensive fines and face imprisonment. The best way to protect yourself and your future is by working with an experienced defense attorney.

Don Pumphrey and his team of attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience representing Floridians who have been accused of criminal offenses. Our attorneys are knowledgeable regarding the Florida laws and penalties and can help you strategize a defense plan to fight your charges. Give us a call today at (850) 681-7777 or leave us an online message for a free case evaluation.

Written by Karissa Key

Back to Top