Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Jeremias Nieves, 74 cockfighting - 50 roosters & hens seized from pet shop PetNV

Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY

New York City County

February 8, 2014 71 Central Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Manuel Cruz, 60 90-acre farm manager charged with cockfighting

Plattekill, NY

Ulster County

February 8, 2014 230 Plattekill Ardonia Road, Plattekill, NY
Jesus Cruz, 37 90-acre farm hand charged with cockfighting

Plattekill, NY

Ulster County

February 8, 2014 230 Plattekill Ardonia Road, Plattekill, NY
Moises Cruz, 71 90-acre farm owner, arrested in Tampa, FL, charged with cockfighting

Plattekill, NY

Ulster County

February 8, 2014 230 Plattekill Ardonia Road, Plattekill, NY
Noel Castillo cockfighting, 65 birds seized

Woodhaven, Queens, NY

New York City County

February 10, 2014 7426 Jamaica Avenue, Queens, NY
Orlando Bautista cockfighting

Woodhaven, Queens, NY

New York City County

February 10, 2014  
Edward Medina cockfighting

Woodhaven, Queens, NY

New York City County

February 10, 2014  
Elisandy Gonzalez cockfighting

Woodhaven, Queens, NY

New York City County

February 10, 2014  
Samuel Rodriguez cockfighting

Woodhaven, Queens, NY

New York City County

February 10, 2014  
Francisco Suriel cockfighting

Woodhaven, Queens, NY

New York City County

February 10, 2014  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date /Courthouse
Felony

illegal alcohol sales, gambling and drug use

3000+ roosters & hens Alleged 2/12/14; Plattekill town court

    

               Edward Medina                                       Noel Castillo                                       Orlando Bautista                              Samuel Rodriguez                             Elisandy Gonzalez                               Franciso Suriel

Photo's courtesy of NY's Attorney General

                                                                
                     Moises Cruz' arrest in Florida                                                      Pet NV 71 Central Avenue, Bushwick, NY                                                                          Jeremiah Nieves

                     Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Times                                   Photo courtesy of REUVEN BLAU/N Y Daily News                                    Photo courtesy of the  NY's Attorney General

A Bushwick pet store remains open for business, even though it was clipped earlier this month in a sweeping crackdown on cockfighting .

Police broke into the basement of Pet NV at 71 Central Ave. on February 9th, and rescued 30 to 50 fighting birds from individual metal cages.

Shop owner Jeremias Nieves, 74, was arrested and charged with animal fighting.

But the store remains open, selling pet food and other supplies. The store no longer sells dogs or cats.

"You can't just have a pet store and run a cockfight," said Monica Suma as she passed the dingy shop.  Still, a neighbor said she heard what she described as "chicken" noises coming from the shop.  "I'm really upset about it," said the woman, who declined to give her name. "I have a feeling it's still going on."

The roosters that were confiscated by police exhibited the telltale physical signs of having been bred, trained and altered for fighting, authorities said after the raid.  Many birds were missing wattles and combs on their heads, and feathers had been removed from their chests and legs, police said.

Fighting equipment was also found in the shop, including bandages used to attach sharp spurs to the birds, sparring muffs and stuffed rooster dummies.

Veterinary drugs, antibiotics, steroids, syringes and vitamins were also recovered, along with bird sales catalogues, cops said.

The family-run store has been open for 25 years, according to a man who identified himself as "the owner."  "I had nothing to do with it," he said. "That was all downstairs."

The man also claimed the store never sold pets, but a customer said she bought a sickly kitten from the shop last year.  "He had mites in his ears and fleas," recalled Katie White, 25. "But the manager gave me free health products."

The cockfighting bust extended to Queens and Ulster Counties and was the largest takedown and rooster rescue in state history, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

  Photo courtesy of NBC News     ASPCA workers at the scene of a cockfighting raid at 230 Plattekill Ardonia Road in upstate NY.

As many as 3,000 birds were seized, and more than 70 people rounded up in "Operation Angry Birds." and 9 people were arrested.

Schneiderman's office said the investigation was ongoing.

Update 2/9/14:
The NY Attorney General issued the following news release:

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that his Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) executed the largest cockfighting takedown in NY's State history, and among the largest in the USA's history. This is the first known investigation in which the crime of Prohibition of Animal Fighting was enforced in 3 separate New York counties simultaneously, in Queens, Kings and Ulster counties. While 70 people initially detained at a cockfighting event, 9 felony arrests were made, and as many as 3,000 birds, as well as cockfighting-related contraband, were rescued in the busts.

The AG's OCTF unit was assisted with the "Operation Angry Birds" investigation by the ASPCA, which offered its expertise in evidence collection as well as removal and sheltering of the seized animals, the Ulster County Sheriff's office, which provided physical surveillance, and the Department of Homeland Security (HSI), which provided local aerial surveillance. The NY State Police also assisted with the raids.

OCTF, with backup from the NY State Police and the Homeland Security Investigation branch of HSI, raided a cockfighting event at 74-26 Jamaica Avenue in Queens. The 70-person event, including bettors and spectators, was busted up. Six of those people, who had brought and fought birds, were charged with felony Prohibition of Animal Fighting. The others were released. The ASPCA took control of 65 fighting birds. The ring had been operating bimonthly events there since at least May 2013 when OCTF first began monitoring cockfighting at this location.

  Photo courtesy of dailymail.co.uk  Rooster raid: 'Operation Angry Birds' in Queens, NY basement

  Photo courtesy of Anna Merlan/blogs.villagevoice.com - 7426 Jamaica Avenue, Queens, NY

At the same time, OCTF investigators executed a search warrant upon Pet NV, a pet shop owned by Jeremias Nieves, 74, and located at 71 Central Avenue in Brooklyn. Fifty fighting birds were rescued from a basement beneath the pet shop. Nieves was arrested and charged with Prohibition of Animal Fighting. The roosters, found in poor condition, had been kept inside individual metal cages and exhibited all the physical hallmarks of having been bred, trained, and altered for fighting. Cockfighting contraband and implements were found within the basement, including artificial spurs, candle wax, medical adhesive tape, syringes used to inject performance-enhancing drugs to strengthen the roosters' fighting ability and other cockfighting implements and paraphernalia.

On February 9th, OCTF investigators, with the help of the Ulster County Sheriff's Office, State Police and other local law enforcement, raided a 90-acre farm at 230 Plattekill Ardonia Road, in Plattekill. The ASPCA recovered as many as 3,000 birds there. The farm was previously registered as a commercial farm under the name CMC Plattekill, Inc., but has been unregistered since 2010. The farm had operated for years under the guise of a live poultry farm, and its owners hid thousands of makeshift cages within the center of the property to avoid detection by neighbors and law enforcement. Farm manager Manuel Cruz, 60 and Jesus Cruz, 37, a farm hand, were arrested and arraigned, and are expected back in Plattekill Town Court on February 12th.

       Photo's courtesy of dailymail.co.uk   Photo's of the raid on the 90 acre farm in Plattekill, NY

Roosters and chickens were found to be boarded in deplorable conditions. The owners charged rent to board, feed, and care for roosters that were bred and trained for fighting, with blood sport enthusiasts and rooster owners from NYC, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts boarding, training and sometimes fighting their roosters there. For years, roosters bred and trained at this farm were transported to the cockfighting event raided the night before in Queens County and to the Brooklyn pet shop that was raided as well.

These 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 to be wagered upon. The ASPCA's Field Investigations and Response team was on hand to help remove the animals, and identify and document forensic evidence. The ASPCA established a temporary shelter at an undisclosed location to house and care for the animals.

At these events, spectators were charged an admission fee and an additional fee for a seat within the secret basement location that housed the all-night fights. Alcohol was sold without a permit, and drugs were used openly. This ring had security personnel who frisked attendees, counter-surveillance within the neighborhood, security cameras and a paid referee. Owners and spectators placed bets on the outcomes of the fights, with individual wagers reaching $10,000. These fights, which began in the evening and lasted into the early morning hours, pitted dozens of roosters against one another to fight to the death.

Cockfighting is a crime in all 50 states. In NY, cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a cockfighting location are felonies, and each charge carries a maximum penalty of 4 years in jail and a fine of $25,000. Paying to attend one of these events is a misdemeanor and carries a possible sentence of up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. These fights can be dangerous for entire communities, as they are often linked to weapons, drugs, gambling and other crimes, and they encourage participants to engage in other acts of animal cruelty and to disregard animal suffering. Disturbingly, children are often present during cockfights. This promotes insensitivity toward animal suffering and enthusiasm for violence.

In May 2013, the Attorney General announced his Animal Protection Initiative, which included the goal of shutting down underground animal fighting rings across the state. NY's seeking to give anonymous tips about potential animal fighting rings or report animal abuse should call 1-866-697-3444 and alert their local authorities. For more information on Attorney General Schneiderman's Animal Protection Initiative, visit www.ag.ny.gov/animals.

This case was investigated by OCTF Senior Investigator Jose Rojas under the supervision of Deputy Chief Christopher Vasta and Chief Dominick Zarrella. The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General Diego Hernandez, under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

The location, which operated for years under the guise of a poultry farm, charged gamecock owners to board, feed and care for their fierce animals. For years, birds bred at the farm were transported to the Queens house and Brooklyn pet shop.

The other accused nabbed in the raids were Noel Castillo, Orlando Bautista, Edward Medina, Elisandy Gonzalez, Samuel Rodriguez and Francisco Suriel. The birds are being housed in temporary shelters.

Update 2/10/14:
To the uninitiated, the paraphernalia found at the scene of an animal abuse bust — candle wax, medical tape, syringes — sounded more like something from a drug case. But investigators said it was a telltale sign of an underground cockfighting ring that exploited roosters by doping and arming them for battles to the death.

The state attorney general’s office and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on February 10th were sorting through the evidence — including as many as 3000 roosters and hens bred and kept at a farm in upstate Ulster County — in what they called the largest cockfighting takedown in state history. The birds were being secured and cared for while needed as criminal evidence, but they face an uncertain future.

Though the hens might get homes, fighting roosters “are extremely hard to rehabilitate and place, almost impossible, because they’re bred for aggression,” ASPCA chief officer Matthew Bershadker said.

State investigators, aided by the ASPCA, arrested at least 9 people in raids at the farm, a pet shop in Brooklyn and a secret cockfighting pit in a basement location in Queens. The people were arraigned February 9th on multiple counts of illegal animal fighting.

A criminal complaint suggested that cockfighting is well established in the region. It says a confidential informant told investigators that in the past 10 years he had bred, trained and fought roosters throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He also “attended hundreds of cockfighting events and observed over 1,000 individual cockfights,” it adds.

The birds were subjected to cruelty that began with their owners removing the red, fleshy parts around their heads and necks, removing feathers from their chests to make it easier for them to strike and injecting them with steroids and vitamins to amp them up for fights, investigators said.

The medical tape and wax were used to attach artificial spurs as sharp as razor blades. Stuffed roosters used for training were found at the Brooklyn pet store.

The cockfights in the Queens basement were all-night affairs, with organizers posting private security at the door, charging admission, selling booze and allowing open drug use, authorities said. After matching up roosters by weighing them on a scale, dozens of spectators would wager up to $10,000 on dozens of fights that ultimately left the basement littered with dead or dying roosters, they said. “It’s a really brutal activity,” Bershadker said. “Some people might say, ‘Oh it’s just birds.’ But they’re sentient beings. They have the capacity to suffer.”

Update 2/12/14:
New York's attorney general says the owner of the Ulster County farm where fighting roosters were raised has been arrested in Florida.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says a warrant from his office was executed by deputies at a home outside Tampa for 71-year-old Moises Cruz.

He was being held pending extradition and it couldn't be determined if he has a lawyer.

About 6,000 birds have now been rescued.

Update 2/13/14:
Moises Cruz was arrested by U.S. Marshals.  Investigators learned that Moises Cruz and his wife were visiting his sister-in-law Pasco County to escape winter storms in New York. The state issued a warrant for his arrest.

Pasco deputies found him at 1019 Appian Place in the Meadow Pointe subdivision. No cockfighting equipment was found inside the home, deputies said.

Cruz, from Plattekill, NY, was booked on a fugitive from justice charge and is waiting to be expedited back to New York. He is charged there with prohibition of animal fighting.

Update 2/18/14:
Bushwick pet store remains open selling pet food and other supplies, even though it was base of a massive cockfighting ring  The store no longer sells dogs or cats.

The family-run store has been open for 25 years, according to a man who identified himself as “the owner.”
“I had nothing to do with it.” “That was all downstairs.”

The man also claimed the store never sold pets.  But a customer said she bought a sickly kitten from the shop last year.
“He had mites in his ears and fleas,” recalled Katie White. “But the manager gave me free health products.”
Still, White planned to continue buying cat food for her tabby Alfie from the shop.  “If they were doing dogfights, that would be different,” she said.  She may be one of the last.

Animal activists warned others to stay away from the store in a series of angry online posts.  “Backyard bred puppies on the first floor, roosters and cock-fighting supplies on the lower level,” wrote Mark H. on Yelp. “This is your all purpose, shady, cruelty to animals pet store. If you care about animals stay far, far away."

Cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a cockfighting location are classified as felonies in New York state. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 4 years in jail and a fine of $25,000. Paying to attend a fight is a misdemeanor and carries a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Reference:

Mobile AL Press-Register Targeted News Service (USA)
dailymail.co.uk NBCNews
Tampa Bay Times NY Daily News
NY's Attorney General