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Illegal Cockfighting Ring Is Busted in Nebraska

Thirty-two men and women were arrested — and more than half may have questionable immigration status

Authorities in Cass County, Nebraska, busted a major cockfighting ring over the weekend that involved some three dozen people.

Others got away before officials could nab them.

Thirty-two men and women were arrested this past Saturday and were booked into the Cass County Jail in Plattsmouth, some 18 miles south of Omaha, on suspicion of promoting cockfighting.

And now, on Tuesday, all 32 of those people who were arrested were charged in Cass County with being spectators at an animal fight, according to SandHillsExpress.com, an Omaha-area publication.

“Cass County Attorney S. Colin Palm said 30 men and two women were charged with viewing cockfighting, a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Bail was set for all 32 defendants, and many of them have been released from jail, he said,” according to the same source.

“Some of those arrested have holds placed on them by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possibly being in the country illegally, Palm [also] said. That means that even if those suspects make bail, they could be sent to federal detention facilities.”

“The Cass County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the incident, Palm said. Authorities are attempting to determine who organized the event.”

On Thursday, LifeZette learned that 18 or 19 of the 32 arrested may have questionable immigration status, according to the county attorney, but he could not confirm that.

Some of the individuals were also cited with obstructing a law enforcement officer over the weekend, Captain Dave Lamprecht told LifeZette in an interview on Monday.

Two juveniles, ages 16 and 15, were also detained. They were released to their parents.

On Sunday, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office released the names of those who were arrested: Gerardo Manzo Reyes, age 43; Ulises Jacinto, age 32; Emilio Belb, age 35; Juan Aguilar, age 46; Mauro Valente, age 27; Roberto Cabrera, age 42; Pablo Suastegue, age 20; Abel Guerrero, age 29; Estela Moreno Barren, age 29; Migual Cruz, age 38; Juan Pena, age 52; Francisco Almazan, age 32; Elias Ramirez, age 33; Jose Lopez, age 40; Abel Chavez-Guzman, age 58; Fernando Gonzalez Balquier, age 46; Jesus Guerrero, age 27; Abel Garcia, age 30; Mario Sandoval, age 38; William Vega, age 24; Efrain Hermosillo, age 58; Victor Ramirez, age 57; Antonia Ozuna-Bernal, age 39; Saleena Robinson, age 24; Victor Perez, age 32; Luis Gomez, age 32; Eanie Heidemann, age 67; Juan Esquivel, age 36; Lucio Ventura, age 57; Rosalio Hernandez, age 37; Sergio Padron, age 29; and Antonio Garcia, age 38.

Cockfighting is a felony in Nebraska and could carry up to five years in prison.

Investigators want to know how long the ring in question was in operation, as KETV.com reported.

Still popular in much of the Asia-Pacific region, especially in Indonesia and parts of South Asia, cockfighting dates back several millennia. It is, however, illegal in the United States — Louisiana was the last state to ban the brutal pastime back in 2007.

The weekend raid occurred inside a barn on a property on Highway 50 in Louisville, Nebraska. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department received a report from the Humane Society, which had learned about the illegal ring from an anonymous tip, according to Lamprecht.

“Once you enter the building, you were able to readily tell [that this] was where the fighting was taking place. They had a ring set up, and cages, and various other items,” said Karl Boehm with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, according to KETV News, the ABC affiliate.

The Humane Society seized 186 living roosters from inside the barn.

Eleven roosters were found dead and one animal was in such bad shape it had to be euthanized, said Lamprecht.

Items associated with cockfighting, such as razor blades, syringes, string, and bedding were also found on the property, according to Lamprecht.

“We found spurs, that are like razor blades, attached to the claws of the birds, during the cockfight,” Mark Langan, with the Humane Society in Nebraska, told KETV News.

Additionally, most roosters were holed up in crates with fresh injuries and there was blood everywhere, added Lamprecht.

“Cockfighting is a blood sport in which two roosters specifically bred for aggression are placed beak to beak in a small ring and encouraged to fight to the death,” reads the ASPCA’s website.

While the cockfighting operation discovered over the weekend was one of the largest the Nebraska Humane Society has ever encountered, Langan is under no illusions the brutal blood sport has been halted in the area entirely.

“Although illegal in all 50 states, cockfighting still persists across the nation in all sorts of communities and among all sorts of people.”

“This was a classic location for cockfighting to happen,” Langan told the station. “Rural area, a barn off a main road, couldn’t really see it from the main road.”

And while the cockfighting operation that was discovered over the weekend was one of the largest the Nebraska Humane Society has ever encountered, Langan is under no illusions the brutal blood sport has been halted in the area entirely, he told the Omaha World-Herald.

For more on this story, check out this video:

This article has been updated with the latest information. 

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.