Man Sentenced To 18 Months In Prison For Possession Of Over 250 Roosters Used For Cockfighting In Bakersfield, California

Horacio Ortega-Martinez, a citizen of Mexico residing in Bakersfield, California, was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in prison for possessing roosters for the purpose of using them in an animal fighting venture.

As per a statement released by U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert’s office, the forfeiture of the fighting roosters and 49 breeding hens was also ordered. On November 10, 2022, Ortega pleaded guilty to the Animal Welfare Act crime involving the possession of 250 roosters used for animal fighting.

According to court documents, law enforcement agents became aware of Ortega’s involvement in breeding, fighting, and selling roosters in January 2022 through recorded conversations obtained from a court-authorized wiretap of a phone used by Jorge Calderon-Campos of Bakersfield. Ortega and Calderon had various telephone conversations about buying, selling, and fighting roosters.

The alleged perpetrators also discussed an event that they attended on February 12th, when 15 roosters fought to win a $5,000 prize.

On April 26, 2022, a search warrant was served at Ortega’s property, where agents found approximately 250 fighting roosters, approximately 250 razor-sharp steel blades that are tied to the birds’ legs, mitts commonly used for training and fighting roosters, and miscellaneous antibiotics, vitamins, and supplements that are commonly used for breeding and training roosters for fighting.

Calderon has been charged separately with various drug trafficking offenses and animal fighting venture crimes in two separate indictments.

This case was the product of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the California Highway Patrol, as well as local organizations including the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, which also provided assistance with this case, cockfighting is a crime in every state and 42 states penalize it as a felony. It is illegal to be a spectator at fights in 43 states, possess or sell birds for fighting in 39 states and to possess animal fighting paraphernalia in 29 states. Only seven states specifically prohibit adults from taking a child to a fight.

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