New York cockfighting bust uncovers 3,000 birds and yields 9 arrests

Posted at 7:30 AM, Feb 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-10 09:30:25-05

By Haimy Assefa

(CNN) — “Operation Angry Birds”: No, it is not a mission to beat your highest score in a phone game app.

Instead, it is the largest cockfighting bust in New York state history, resulting in more than 3,000 seized birds, 70 people taken into custody and nine felony arrests by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s Organized Crime Task Force.

The record-setting raid spanned two boroughs and upstate Ulster County.

A cockfight in Queens, a pet shop in Brooklyn, and a farm in upstate Plattekill were raided Saturday night into Sunday by the task force, with the help of New York State Police, the Homeland Security Department and the Ulster County sheriff’s office, according to a news release from Schneiderman’s office.

The Queens raid disrupted a 70-person event, which included bettors and spectators of the bimonthly fights, according to the news release.

Simultaneously in Brooklyn, law enforcement officials busted the owner of a pet shop called Pet NV after 50 fighting birds were rescued from the basement, according to the statement. The birds were found in poor condition inside metal cages. Cockfighting contraband — including artificial spurs, candle wax, medical adhesive tape and syringes used to inject performance-enhancing drugs into the roosters — was also found in the basement.

The owner of the pet shop, Jeremias Nieves, 74, was arrested and charged with prohibition of animal fighting.

The Ulster County sheriff’s office and other local law enforcement helped OCTF investigators raid the 90-acre farm in Plattekill. The ASPCA recovered up to 3,000 birds that had been bred, trained and given performance-enhancement drugs from the farm, which has been operating as a live poultry farm for years, according to the release.

For years, the roosters, which were bred and trained at the farm, were then taken to the cockfighting event raided in Queens and the pet shop in Brooklyn, according to the release.

The cockfighting spectators paid an admission fee to watch all-night fights. Alcohol was sold without a permit and drugs were used openly, according to attorney general’s office.

“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 the release.

Cockfighting is a crime in all 50 states. In New York, cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a fighting location are felonies that carry a maximum sentence of four years in jail and a fine of $25,000, according to the statement.

“My office will keep working to hold these individuals accountable, and put an end to illegal cockfighting,” said Schneiderman.

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