Cockfighting ring busted in Operation Angry Birds
Authorities brought down a three-county cockfighting ring this weekend, rescuing more than 3,000 birds and making nine felony arrests, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced.
The Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, with the help of the ASPCA, the Ulster County Sheriff’s office, the Department of Homeland Security and New York State Police simultaneously raided a cockfight in Queens, a pet shop in Brooklyn and a farm in Plattekill between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
“Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice that tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of the public, and is known to facilitate other crimes,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “My office, along with our partners in law enforcement and animal welfare, are committed to ending this vicious blood sport.”
Operation Angry Birds is the largest cockfighting bust in state history, according to the attorney general’s office.
In Queens, authorities raided a cockfighting event inside 74-26 Jamaica Ave. A total of 70 people were taken into custody at the scene. Six of those people, who had brought and fought birds, were charged with felonies under the Prohibition of Animal Fighting. Sixty-five birds were rescued by the ASPCA.
Authorities say the ring operated the cockfighting events from inside the Woodhaven location on a bimonthly basis since last May.
In Brooklyn, investigators raided Pet NV, located at 71 Central Ave. in Bushwick. Fifty fighting birds were rescued from metal cages in a basement beneath the store. The store’s owner, 74-year-old Jeremias Nieves, was arrested and charged with prohibition of animal fighting.
Cockfighting contraband, including artificial spurs, candle wax and syringes, were also recovered from the shop.
On Sunday morning, investigators also raided a 90-acre farm in upstate Plattekill. As many as 3,000 birds were recovered there.
The farm, located at 230 Plattekill Ardonia Road, had been operating under the guise of a poultry farm for years, authorities said.
Farm manager Manuel Cruz, 60, and Jesus Cruz, 37, a farm hand, were arrested and arraigned. They are expected back in Plattekill Town Court on Monday.
According to authorities, the roosters were bred, trained, plied with performance-enhancing drugs, had razor-sharp gaffs attached in place of their natural spurs and were locked in a small pen.
The ASPCA has set up a temporary shelter to care for the animals.
At the cockfighting events, spectators were charged an admission fee and an additional fee for a seat within the secret basement location. Alcohol was sold without a permit, and drugs were used openly, according to the attorney general’s office.
Cockfighting is a crime in all 50 states. In New York, cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a cockfighting location are felonies, and each charge carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a fine of $25,000.