80 arrested in raid of Virginia cockfighting operation linked to Mexican cartels

June 9, 2019

Law enforcement officials in Virginia conducted a raid last weekend that shut down an illegal cockfighting ring and resulted in the felony arrests of 80 individuals.

Officials have determined that the illicit operation was based in Mexico, and the proceeds from gambling on the fights were used by Mexican criminal cartels to help fund other criminal activities.

Cockfighting crackdown

The Martinsville Bulletin reported that the raid on the cockfighting ring took place on Saturday, June 1, in the town of Claudville in Patrick County, Virginia, just north of the commonwealth’s border with North Carolina.

Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith told the Bulletin that more than 50 officers from multiple law enforcement agencies took part in the raid, and while 80 individuals were caught and placed under arrest, it is suspected that roughly 40 people were able to escape capture in the chaos of the incident.

Only a few of those arrested were actual residents of Virginia, and though a few of the participants in the cockfighting ring came from as far away as Chicago, Georgia, and Texas — or had no known U.S. address — the overwhelming majority came from neighboring North Carolina.

Cartel links

The Bulletin further reported that officers engaged in the raid ended up seizing unspecified amounts of cash, edged weapons, firearms, methamphetamine and other drugs, other assorted personal property, and even some vehicles.

Those who were arrested now face prosecution under the state’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO statutes, due to the nature of the operation.

Patrick County Sheriff’s Lt. Eric O’Connell, one of the top officers in charge of the investigation, explained that the cockfighting ring was but one part of a much larger, elaborately organized, cartel-run operation that utilized multiple locations across Virginia and North Carolina as venues for the illicit fights.

Authorities believe that aside from the gambling on cockfighting, the events also served as a venue for the distribution and sale of methamphetamines and other drugs. O’Connell said in a statement: “Evidence obtained leads us to believe that Mexican drug cartels operating in the region had a clear and definite presence.”

The owner of the property, a 53-year-old resident named Phillip Baldwin, was present at the time of the raid and was one of the 80 that were arrested.

A preliminary search of the property turned up several carcasses of chickens that had been killed in the fighting, as well as several caged chickens that had yet to face the horror of the fighting ring. Many of those chickens, both alive and dead, were found to have long razors known as “gaffs” attached to their spurs.

Justice will be served

Forced animal fighting of any kind is incredibly cruel, but cockfighting, in particular, is a rather terrible “sport” — given the lethal weaponry added to the chickens — that is nevertheless still quite popular among certain cultures.

It is a good thing that this cockfighting ring in Virginia was disbanded, and hopefully, all who were arrested are fairly tried, found guilty, and held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Moreover, it is hoped that the evidence uncovered by this raid will lead to further investigations and arrests of Mexican criminal cartels operating in the region so that their other illicit activities can be ended and justice applied as well.

There is little doubt that President Donald Trump is pleased by this news, as it is part of an ongoing effort across federal, state, and local jurisdictions to crack down on the unlawful activities of illegal immigrants and Mexican criminal cartels.


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Ben Marquis

Ben Marquis is a staff writer for Conservative Institute.