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Saturday, Nov 19, 2011County: Passaic
Alleged: Edwin Rodriquez
Case Updates: 1 update(s) available
A lucrative cockfighting operation in a dingy pallet warehouse was broken up over the weekend in a raid that resulted in 11 arrests and seizure of 50 chickens, authorities said.
Drugs, including marijuana, bottles of medications used to bulk up chickens, and sharp metal talons also were seized in the raid by officers from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Late Sunday, authorities were still trying to find the ringleader, whom police would not identify, but who is believed to be the owner of JC Pallets on Marshall Street, where the raid took place, said Passaic County SPCA Chief Robert Boyle.
"It's a big business, a hidden business," Boyle said. Bets ranged from $500 to $5,000, he said.
Officers from the SPCA, Paterson police and the Passaic County Sheriff's Office swarmed JC Pallets, 354 Marshall St., just off Canal Street, around 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The one-story building is in a dark industrial area near Route 19.
In the chaotic scene that followed, dozens of participants ran for cover, hiding under pallets; climbing stacked pallets to scale a 10-foot-high barbed wire fence around the building, getting cut up in the process; and even running on rooftops. One man was pecked on the head by a hen.
All the while chickens continued to fight in a makeshift ring in a garage area of the building.
Officers also found a counter with refreshments that included a birthday cake. They found chickens tied up in pillows, perhaps waiting their turn to fight, Boyle said.
The 11 people arrested were charged with third-degree animal fighting offenses, Boyle said.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of the ringleader, who police believe is the owner of JC Pallets, but Boyle said he couldn't make the name public.
The raid was the culmination of a two-month SPCA investigation. Boyle said that fights were regularly scheduled and thousands of dollars were wagered on the matches.
About 50 chickens were found alive and transported by Paterson animal control officers to a shelter, Boyle said. Along with a makeshift fighting ring, police also found sharp metal talons that were put on the chicken's feet for fighting inside the ground floor of JC Pallets.
Police believe the chickens were mailed to JC Pallets from Puerto Rico after finding several postal containers at the property.
Paterson Animal Control Chief John De Cando has been asking for tougher postal regulations to stop the mailing of chickens, which he considers inhumane. He wrote Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., this year asking for legislation to stop it.
Adult fowl can be mailed alive when properly packaged, according to a March 10 letter from the Postal Service to Menendez in response to De Cando's concerns. The post office prohibits any animal from being mailed if it is intended to participate in fighting.
"It should be stopped, period" De Cando said Sunday. "You're not allowed to have live chickens in the city of Paterson without a license. How can you be able to get one in the mail?"
The names of the 11 people charged were not released. They are scheduled to be arraigned in Passaic County Superior Court today, Boyle said.
|A city man accused of profiting from the cockfighting contests he allegedly ran at his pallet business appeared before a judge today after turning himself in to authorities.|
Edwin Rodriquez, who also goes by Jose Cruz, reported to the Paterson Police Department with his lawyer this morning, three days after authorities busted up a cockfight involving as many as 60 participants at a warehouse for JC Pallets on Marshall Street, said Robert Boyle, who heads the law division of the Passaic County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Rodriquez, 49, of Pacific Street, has been charged with violating three sections of a state statue that deals with animal fighting. Each charge is a crime of a third-degree, which carry a maximum jail sentence of 18 months or a fine of $7,500.
A woman who answered the phone at JC Pallets said Rodriquez did not want to discuss the charges.
"We don't have anything to say about that," said the woman, who declined to give her name. "His case will be handled in court."
Rodriquez is next scheduled to appear Dec. 21 for a probable cause hearing in state Superior Court, Passaic County.
Paterson Municipal Court Judge Kevin McDuffy attempted to jail Rodriquez at his arraignment this morning, but Rodriquez was able to leave on his own after posting 10 percent of his $10,000 bail in cash, Court Administrator Gloria Schweitzer said.
The SPCA had been looking for Rodriquez since storming the dingy warehouse Saturday night.
Officers arrested 11 people during the raid. They were later charged with witnessing the baiting and fighting of animals, also a third-degree offense, and are next scheduled to appear Dec. 21 in state Superior Court for pretrial hearings.
While dozens of other participants fled the building and got away, Boyle said he has some of their names and that others may soon be charged.
Officers found 50 live chickens during the raid, some of which were tied up in pillows. They also found sharp metal talons that were affixed to the claws of roosters before fights. A makeshift ring occupied a garage.
Some defendants live in Paterson. One might have come from as far away as Massachusetts.
|Source: northjersey.com - Nov 22, 2011|
Update posted on Nov 22, 2011 - 7:27PM
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