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 renown 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 had been a 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. (Read more about Operation Foghorn by clicking here.)
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 illegal crime rings. At the time, these operations were being overseen by a group of farmers titled the ‘Family Farm Alliance’. This group controlled all of the properties which were being run both illegally and without any licenses, and 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 in fact 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 being served to each of the targeted properties and an overall derailment of illegal businesses, including almost 600 structures that were in violation of building and zoning laws. Operation Restore was ordered by the State and executed over the course of the year. Operation Restore, was widely considered to be the largest and most dangerous extreme animal cruelty investigations conducted in the history of the United States.
One of the properties encompassed in this extensive operation was owned and ran by Hector Millan, who was hosting frequent game rooster and dog fights, as well as documented conversations of horse fights. Millan, in addition, was rumored to be partaking in the illegal sale and slaughter of horses for their meat. Due to the Operation Restore state shutdown, Millan’s property was seized, following over 50 violations totaling over $270,000 in fines for cockfighting and code violations. This however 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 located within the same area of the C-9 Basin (FL) was initiated following a horse slaughter discovery and investigation on the neighboring property. During this time, ARM investigators were informed of regular and illegal fighting activity, thus Operation Gallo was instantly ignited.
The parcel of land, where the cockfights and breeding were taking place, were situated on land that had been zoned as agricultural vacant land, and were documented as wetlands. All of the structures and fences that were constructed were illegal. Roosters were also being bred for the intent of fighting competitively, and for financial gain.
Over the course of its investigation, ARM undercover operatives entered the property on the main fighting days, scheduled every Saturday. On these days, over 30 fights were being hosted for spectators and gamblers in the hundreds, including minors who were even documented assisting in the fighting rings. Betting figures averaged from $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 that were 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 was being executed.
These included :
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,
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, a strike force meeting was assembled with county and state officials. At this time, a county official who had a close relationship with the fighting ring operator was tipped off that ARM undercover agents were embedded at the location.
A week later the breeding and animal fighting rings were closed by the fighters themselves. Since then the location has been demolished and the people wanted in connection with illegal animal fighting and betting are on the run.