Nine arrested after massive cockfighting operation busted in Queens, Brooklyn


| mhayes@queenscourier.com |

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Thousands of roosters were recovered and dozens of people were taken into custody after officials busted “Operation Angry Birds” wide open.

Throughout the weekend, city and state officials busted a Richmond Hill cockfighting ring, a Brooklyn pet store housing 50 birds and a farm storing as many as 3,000 roosters for future fighting. Nine felony arrests were made.

“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,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) spearheaded the raids.

After 10 p.m. Saturday, city and state officials raided a Richmond Hill cockfighting event on Jamaica Avenue, according to a police source.

Birds 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 where they would fight to the death.

“No animal should be forced to fight to the death for human entertainment and profit,” said ASPCA President and CEO Matthew Bershadker.

The ring had operated bi-monthly since at least May, according to Schneiderman. Wagers of up to $10,000 were made on various fights.

At that same time, investigators discovered 50 roosters, in poor condition and showing physical signs of having been altered for fighting, underneath the Brooklyn pet shop. The owner, Jeremias Nieves, 74, was arrested and charged with a felony.

The three-county-wide raid ended north of the city in Plattekill, where officials raided a 90-acre farm, and the ASPCA recovered as many as 3,000 fighting birds.

The farm had been unregistered since 2010 but operated under the guise of a live poultry farm. Thousands of makeshift cages were hid in the center of the property.

Manager Manuel Cruz, 60, and farm hand Jesus Cruz, 37, were arrested and arraigned. The farm allegedly charged rent to board, feed and care for the roosters that were bred and ultimately trained for fighting all around the tri-state area and up to Massachusetts.

The multi-faceted bust is the largest cockfighting takedown in New York State history and is among the largest in national history. The ASPCA established a temporary, undisclosed location to care for the recovered birds.

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