Monday, February 2, 2009

Law enforcement busts major animal-cruelty ring

Deputies arrest 83 and seize $88,000 in Sunday raid.

MARTIN COUNTY - Local law enforcement got more than they bargained for when a tip from a nearby oil field worker led to the arrest of 81 adults - including several illegal immigrants - and two juveniles believed to be involved in a cockfighting ring raided over the weekend.

The 640 acres of land where the cockfighting was taking place was only 200 yards into Martin County across from the Midland County line.

The massive bust was called in to Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter's office by a tip from an oilfield worker.

Painter then called Martin County Sheriff John Woodward, and both brought along several of their deputies to the 2000 block of County Road 2001. With the assistance of Department of Public Safety troopers, the arrests were made around 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

"We were told there were a lot of vehicles and a lot of people there, but we didn't know how many until we got there," Painter said.

Upon arrival, they found more than 100 people watching the fight.

Several tried to flee the scene but were apprehended by authorities, officials said.

Woodward told the Reporter-Telegram there were a set of pens and barns set up on a section of the land. When they arrived, the individuals were all huddled closely under a barn.

Deputies confiscated 105 fighting roosters, including 10 which were already dead and three that had to be euthanized because of their injuries.

The birds are said to be worth about $2,000 each and are being kept at a secure location where Woodward told the Reporter-Telegram he was feeding them Sunday.

Officials also seized approximately $88,000 in cash allegedly used for betting money and several quantities of cocaine and marijuana. Painter said while the officers were making the arrests, some individuals were throwing the drugs on the floor.

Woodward said alcohol also was involved and they found lots of empty bottles scattered about when they arrived.

Authorities found narcotics in at least three vehicles on the grounds.

The other 36 cars on the property also were seized and have been impounded.

"It was definitely a lot bigger than we realized once we go out there.

We didn't know exactly what to expect, but the more cocaine and money we kept finding, it definitely raised an eyebrow," Woodward said.

The investigation is ongoing, since officers have found several carcasses of both dogs and roosters in caliche pits nearby. Some of the dead dogs dumped recently appear to have been beaten up and bitten.

Woodward said he's not sure if the animal carcasses found are directly related to Saturday's incident but even though the dumpsites are not located on the landowner's property, they are close by.

All 83 individuals arrested were taken to Midland County Detention Center and booked each on a third-degree felony of engaged in organized criminal activity.

Bonds were set at $20,000 per person.

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