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Guilty pleas and jail terms in largest cockfighting bust in New York history

December 29, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. AP file photo
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New York state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced this month the felony convictions of two Ulster County men charged as part of the three-county takedown, “Operation Angry Birds,” which resulted in the dismantling of the largest known cockfighting ring in New York history, reaching from Ulster County to Brooklyn and Queens, and one of the biggest in the country. 

Farm owner Moises Cruz, 71, and farm manager Manuel Cruz, 60, pleaded guilty in December to the top count felony of violating New York Agriculture and Markets Law, Prohibition of Animal Fighting. 

Hours before the upstate arrests, dozens of people were initially detained after a raid at a Queens cockfighting event in February — a part of the Angry Birds operation.  Four additional defendants were Brooklyn residents including Elisandy Gonzalez, 45; Noel Castillo, 67; Francisco Suriel, 45; and Jeremias Nieves, 75. 

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The Cruzes were arrested in February when A.G. investigators and other local law enforcement raided a 90-acre farm at 230 Plattekill Ardonia Road, in Plattekill, operated by the men. 

The investigation revealed that roosters from the Cruz Platkill farm were also transported to a Brooklyn pet shop that was raided as well.  Investigators executed a search warrant upon Pet NV, a pet shop owned by Jeremias Nieves, located at 71 Central Ave. in Brooklyn earlier this year, and dozens of fighting birds were removed from a basement beneath the pet shop.

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 and syringes used to inject performance-enhancing drugs to strengthen the roosters’ fighting ability and other cockfighting implements and paraphernalia. 

“Cockfighting is a cruel, abusive and barbaric practice,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “It tortures animals, endangers the health and safety of our communities and is known to facilitate other crimes, [and] we are holding accountable those who raised animals for illegal sport, operated illegal gambling venues and trafficked fighting animals to New York City.

Cockfighting is a crime in all 50 states. In New York, cockfighting and possession of a fighting bird at a cockfighting location are felonies. 

-Information provided by Office of the New York State Attorney General

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