In October of 2014, ARM field investigators uncovered the reemergence of illegal animal fighting activity in the C-9 Basin – a rural area of Miami, Florida, which has become renowned for the existence of illegal and inhumane animal cruelty operations. Shortly after the reconnaissance phase, ARM confirmed its suspicions of a large, underground animal fighting ring was under operation by criminal subjects, who ironically ARM had previously investigated and closed down five years prior, in the same vicinity.
This lucrative fighting ring was part of an extensive elimination project, known as Operation Restore, which was a collaborative effort of ARM alongside the Miami-Dade State Attorneys office and a multitude of local, state, and federal enforcement agencies. Operation Restore resulted in the shutting down of over 70 illegal animal slaughter farms. ARM’s sister investigation to Operation Gallo, referred to as Operation Foghorn, was investigated and exposed within the same geographical zone.
ARM’S PRIOR INVESTIGATION OF THE LOCATION OF OPERATION GALLO;
In January of 2010, ARM targeted the C-9 Basin location and conducted a six-month-long investigation, which ended with the immediate demolition of some of the most saturated horse slaughter, animal cruelty, and crime rings. At the time, A group of farmers, the ‘Family Farm Alliance’, oversaw these operations. This group controlled all of the properties which were being run both illegally and without any licenses. Another issue consisted of people taking advantage of vacant, raw land that was supposed to remain preserved and under environmental protection as buffer zones to the adjacent fragile wetlands known as the Florida Everglades.
Instead, multiple businesses were set up and consisted of some of the worst illegal animal slaughter, sacrifice, and fighting operations who tortured, killed, and exploited animals for a profitable income and entertainment. Involved with this ‘alliance,’ included Ernesto Prichardo, Priest of the Santeria’ Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye.’ This group attempted to form a coalition once ARMs investigations were revealed, but failed in their efforts.
Instead, ARM’s investigations led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines served to each of the targeted properties and an overall derailment of illegal businesses, including almost 600 structures in violation of building and zoning laws. Operation Restore ordered by the state and executed over the year was widely considered the most significant and most dangerous extreme animal cruelty investigation conducted in the history of the United States.
One of the properties encompassed in this extensive operation was owned and run by Hector Millan, who was hosting frequent game rooster and dog fights and documented conversations of horse fights. Millan, as it seemed, was involved in the illegal sale and slaughter of horses for their meat. Due to the
During Operation Restore, the state shutdown, Millan’s property, and cited 50 violations totaling over $270,000 in fines for cockfighting and code violations. However, this did not serve as a lesson to Millan, and after stringent monitoring, ARM confirmed his relocation of business, in the same area, which was titled, Operation Gallo.
OPERATION GALLO INVESTIGATION:
The undercover surveillance of a suspected animal fighting operation within the same area of the C-9 Basin (FL) began following a horse slaughter discovery and investigation of the neighboring property. During this time, ARM investigators received a tip of illegal fighting activity regularly taking place in the are, thus Operation Gallo was instantly ignited.
Cockfights took place on a parcel of land zoned as vacant agricultural land and cited as wetlands, making the construction of structures and fences illegal. Roosters were also being bred for the intent of fighting competitively, and for financial gain.
Throughout its investigation, ARM undercover operatives entered the property on the main fighting days, scheduled every Saturday, hosting over 30 fights for spectators and gamblers in the hundreds, including minors, who ARM operatives documented assisting in the fighting rings. Betting figures averaged from USD 20-50,000 per fight. Fighters at these events were also terrorizing the community by breaking into the barn next door and slaughtering their horses for meat to be sold underground for human consumption.
The trainers and betters of Operation Gallo were in attendance from some of the largest training and breeding facilities displaced throughout Florida. Aside from the illegal and inhumane animal cruelty and exploitation related animal fighting rings, the illegal sale of alcohol was heavily present at these events, as well as drugs offered for sale to ARM undercover agents. Firearms and fighting paraphernalia were also present at the fights.
ARM’S INVESTIGATIONS REVEALED AN EXTENSIVE LIST OF STATE VIOLATIONS UPON THE PROPERTY WHERE THE ILLEGAL ANIMAL FIGHTING TOOK PLACE:
- Animal cruelty resulting in death.
- Felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty.
- The illegal selling of beer and liquor sales without a license.
- Illegal betting and gambling.
- Possession of cockfighting paraphernalia.
- Attending the fighting or baiting of animals.
- Operating a business without a license or insurance County ordinance codes.
- Illegal disposing of animal carcasses.
- Sanitary nuisance.
- Building and zoning infractions.
- Environmental infractions and violations.
- Violating IRS laws.
- Felony child abuse violations
- Violation and possession of illegal narcotics
After several months of securing relationships as attendees, ARM assembled a strike force meeting with county and state officials. At this time, a county official with a close relationship with the fighting ring operator got tipped off that ARM undercover agents infiltrated the location.
A week later, the breeding and animal fighting rings were closed by the fighters, who demolished the location. Also, those wanted in connection with illegal animal fighting and betting are on the run.