“Cockfighters profit from and enjoy watching birds fight for their life,” says ASPCA Vice President of Field Investigations and Response Tim Rickey. “Not only is cockfighting cruel, it often brings other crimes to communities, such as illegal gambling and drug possession. We’re pleased to be in a position where we could step in and provide resources and expertise to assist local authorities in ending this violent criminal enterprise and holding the abusers accountable.”
Moises Cruz, 71, and Manuel Cruz, 60, both received sentences of nine months jail, a $1,500 fine and were required to sign an Animal Non Possess Order which indicates that they may not posses any animals nor work, live, or stay in any place where a live animal is kept.
“Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice. It tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of our communities and is known to facilitate other crimes” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We are holding accountable those who raised animals for illegal sport, operated illegal gambling venues and trafficked fighting animals to New York City. My office, along with our partners in law enforcement and animal welfare, are committed to ending this vicious blood sport in New York.”
“Operation Angry Birds,” as the raid was known, resulted in the dismantling of the largest known cockfighting ring in New York State history. The birds, including roosters and hens, were found to be boarded in deplorable conditions and were transported to cockfighting events throughout the region. Moises and Manuel Cruz are among ten defendants who have pleaded guilty in the case.
In May, the ASPCA assisted in the rescue, removal and sheltering of more than 550 birds from properties associated with cockfighting in Virginia. Five people charged in conjunction with the case have now received sentencing, and today we have an update on their status.
On Thursday, a federal judge sentenced Kentucky man Walter Stumbo, 51, to 18 months in prison. His wife, Sonya Stumbo, 51, and their son, Joshua Stumbo, 33, each received ten months. Sonya Stumbo was convicted at trial and the other two pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including possession of an animal for use in animal fighting.
In addition, Wesley Robinson, 57, and his son Jonathan Robinson, 33, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to operate an illegal gambling enterprise and illegally conducting cockfights; one count of transporting fighting roosters across state lines; one count of transporting bird fighting knives across state lines; and one count of illegally distributing oxycodone.
On August 27, Wesley Robinson was sentenced to six months in prison. On October 8, Jonathan Robinson was sentenced to join his father in prison for a sentence of one year and one day.
“The cruel and inhumane practice of cockfighting has no place in civilized society and is against federal law,” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said in a written statement. “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who attend, facilitate, or profit from the misery inflicted on animals during these barbaric fights.”
In the aftermath of the raid, the ASPCA has learned more about the illegal cockfighting operation. Known as the “Big Blue” Cock Fighting Pit, the enterprise in McDowell, Kentucky, featured arena-style seating, multiple fighting pits and a restaurant. The Robinsons reportedly brought the birds from Wise County, Virginia, to Big Blue on weekends, and spectators allegedly travelled from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and other states to attend fights at Big Blue.
“Big Blue” had approximately 5,000 members. Entrance fees ranged from $250 to $2,500, and over $90,000 in cash was seized at the Stumbo’s home.
At the request of the Indiana Gaming Commission Gaming Control Division, the ASPCA is assisting in the removal of more than 15 animals, including birds and dogs, from properties associated with cockfighting in Fayette and Henry Counties, Indiana.
The investigation began as a cockfighting investigation, and search warrants were executed Thursday morning for the seizure of roosters. The remaining animals were subsequently surrendered. Without access to proper food or water, many of the animals appeared to be malnourished and suffering from medical issues.
The ASPCA is assisting with intake and removal, and will transport the animals to a temporary shelter established by the Johnson County Animal Control, where they will receive medical exams and veterinary care. Our cockfighting experts are also guiding evidence collection to identify tools, drugs and other paraphernalia used in cockfighting. The animals will remain at the temporary shelter until custody is determined.
“We’re pleased to work with local authorities in removing these animals from a cruel situation,” said Kathryn Destreza, Investigations Director of the ASPCA Field Investigations & Response’s team, “sending a message that cockfighting and other crimes against animals will not be tolerated in this community or anywhere in the country.”
Cockfighting continues to be an insidious problem in the United States. Though it is illegal in every state, this brutal blood sport has been found in all types of communities and amongst all sorts of people. The ASPCA is dedicated to helping its victims and ending the cruel practice altogether.
Earlier this week, we told you about our support of a massive cockfighting bust that spanned three counties in New York State. At the request of the New York State Attorney General's Office, the ASPCA is still on the ground at an Ulster County farm, assisting with the removal, transport and sheltering of as many as 4,000 fighting roosters.
While our responders establish a temporary shelter, where the birds will be cared for and housed pending court disposition, law enforcement officers have arrested three individuals associated with the farm, where birds allegedly destined for cockfights, were bred and trained. The owner of the property was apprehended in south Florida, and according to investigators and an article in the New York Times, has operated an extensive cockfighting pipeline for years.
Several other arrests were made on Saturday night when investigators busted a cockfight in Queens and raided a pet shop in Brooklyn. Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states. In New York, cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a cockfighting location are felonies, with each charge carrying a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a maximum fine of $25,000.