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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bronx Teacher Charged With Animal Welfare Violations For Cockfighting Venture

Hector M. Cruz Charged with Raising, Training, and Selling Roosters for Cockfighting at a Backyard Farm in the Bronx

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Bethanne M. Dinkins, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (“USDA-OIG”), and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced that HECTOR M. CRUZ was arrested today for possessing, selling, and transporting roosters for purposes of participation in animal fights around the United States. The defendant is expected to be presented today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Hector Cruz ran a cruel and illegal business of raising and selling roosters for the purpose of vicious cockfights where knives and other sharp instruments are attached to the fighting roosters’ legs. Thanks to the work of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General and the NYPD, Cruz’s days of allegedly profiting from this inhumane business are over.”

Special Agent-in-Charge Dinkins said: “The provisions of the Animal Welfare Act were designed to protect animals from being used in illegal fighting ventures, which often entail other forms of criminal activity involving drugs, firearms and gambling. Together with the Department of Justice, animal fighting is an investigative priority for USDA-OIG, and we will work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and assist in the criminal prosecution of those who participate in animal fighting ventures.”

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill stated: “Cockfighting often leads to the cruel killing of roosters. Hector Cruz’s arrest will stop the breeding and training of roosters for cockfighting at his facility in the Bronx.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:

Cockfighting is an activity in which knives, gaffs, or other sharp instruments are attached to the legs of roosters for the purpose of fighting each other. The fights between roosters end when one rooster is dead or refuses to continue to fight. If not killed during the fight, the losing rooster is typically killed afterwards. Roosters involved in cockfighting will often be mutilated in preparation for fights, typically by cutting off the rooster’s comb and wattle and shaping the rooster’s spur. Individuals who breed roosters for cockfights often cross-breed particular types of roosters in order to produce hybrid breeds that will excel as fighters.


From December 2012 up to January 2017, HECTOR M. CRUZ, a New York City public school teacher, maintained a rooster farm at a location in the Bronx, where he bred, raised, and trained roosters for cockfighting. CRUZ sold and shipped his roosters to individuals across the country, knowing that the birds were intended for cockfights. CRUZ communicated with customers through social media and received payments of as much as $600 for fighting birds.


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CRUZ, 59, of the Bronx, New York, is charged with selling, possessing, and transporting animals for purposes of participation in an animal fight, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the USDA-OIG and the NYPD Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad and thanked them for their ongoing support and assistance with the case.


The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael C. McGinnis and Alison G. Moe are in charge of the case.


The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Press Release Number: 
Updated January 31, 2017