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By Sadef Ali Kully

Two men from upstate New York were sentenced to nine months in prison for animal cruelty as part of their roles in a major 2014 cockfighting ring that extended into Queens and Brooklyn,

state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

by Ulster County Court Judge Donald Williams on Friday, March 6, announced Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

A three-county 2014 raid, dubbed “Operation Angry Birds,” resulted in the dismantling of a large cockfighting ring reaching from Ulster County to Woodhaven and Brooklyn, according to the AG.

“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,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.

Manuel Cruz and his nephew, Jesus Cruz Mendez, 37, sentenced by Ulster County Judge Donald Williams last Friday for raising the roosters that were used in the cockfighting, Schneiderman said.

In the first bust, Orlando Bautista, 51, from Woodhaven, who pleaded guilty last year in April, was among the six arrested in 2014 when authorities raided 74-26 Jamaica Ave., where prosecutors said more than 70 people had gathered to watch cocks fight to the death. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recovered almost 4,000 birds at the upstate farm owned by the Cruzes. For years, roosters bred and trained at this farm were transported to cockfighting events in Woodhaven, the AG said.

“Our primary goal was to immediately remove these birds from a cycle of violence and suffering,” said Stacy Wolf, senior vice president of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group.

Cockfighting paraphernalia was discovered at the Queens property, including artificial spurs, candle wax, medical adhesive tape, and syringes used to inject performance enhancing drugs to strengthen the roosters’ fighting ability. At both raids, the ASPCA assisted authorities by identifying and documenting evidence with state-of-the-art forensics tools.

In cockfighting cases, birds commonly suffer punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes. These injuries are often the result of knives and dagger-like devices, attached to the birds to maximize injury. It is also common for fighting birds to be injected with or fed various drugs to enhance their performance.

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. Additionally, attending a cockfight is a misdemeanor, with a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546

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