An investigation into illegal trafficking of eagle and migratory bird feathers and remains has led to federal charges against three Montanans.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says 51-year-old William E. Hugs Sr.; his son, 22-year-old William E. Hugs Jr., and 33-year-old Ernie Lemuel Stewart pleaded not guilty to a variety of charges in Billings on Tuesday.

The indictment will remain sealed until other defendants appear.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted the investigation from March 2008 through February of this year.

The Hugs, both of Crow Agency, and Stewart, of Wyola, are accused of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act, which regulates the transportation of wildlife.

Stewart faces similar charges in South Dakota.

Story From The Associated Press