Webinar presenters Richard Samuels and Michelle Welch answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Advanced Cock Fighting Investigations and Prosecutions. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Richard you mentioned that sometimes gangs and mafia people are involved in cockfighting. What exactly does that mean in terms of meeting to coordinate with other specialized task forces, gang units, etc.? Michelle, certainly, chime in if it’s possible.
Richard Samuels: They definitely got the right answers. Generally, depending on the situation and the particular type of gang or threat that you are dealing with, it may involve national security. We did do a case up north where we found out at the aftermath the individual was actually related to the second-in-charge of the cartel. Of course, all of the federal agencies got involved properly. If you suspect that, definitely reach out to your local federal agents and make them aware that you may have someone involved with a heavy gang or the cartel.
Michelle Welch: I agree with Richard. I will tell you that there was a raid or a search warrant on an active pit and if you are going to do that you definitely want to make sure you have your state police involved and your federal agents involved. You are going to need resources. That is not something you enter into lightly. In fact, Richard and I really do not like raiding any active pit that is actually going on because it is very, very dangerous.
Audience Question: How prevalent is cockfighting these days?
Richard Samuels: What I have found that in the last 16 years is that it is very prevalent. I don’t think I have come across a state through my investigation that does not have someone involved whether it’s training, conditioning or transporting or brokering animals into other countries including the Philippines. It’s all over the United States and it’s very prevalent.
Michelle Welch: Just so you know, we have about seven active cases right now that are being prosecuted in Virginia because of Richard’s good work. NIBRS will be recording animal fighting incidents and it will tell us how prevalent cockfighting is all over the U.S. NIBRS stands for the National Incident-Based Reporting System. The states are reporting animal crime to the FBI. One of the categories is organized abuse. I’m hoping by next year we really see just how prevalent it is, with good data. If you don’t think you have a cockfighting problem, it’s an enforcement problem. Cockfighting is going on in almost every state in the U.S. It is not being investigated.
Audience Question: Richard you mentioned going through training before going undercover. Where would we find this training? How long would you recommend doing training before you even you think of going undercover first? Can you talk a little bit more about the training aspects of undercover work?
Richard Samuels: There are a couple of classes offered in DCJS (Department of Criminal Justices) in the state of Virginia in reference to what they call bio, creating a bio. You should reach out to your state’s Criminal Justice Agency (that trains your police). Also, see if you can do police training through the Police Academy or a Criminal Justice Regional Academy. There was one class called undercover philosophy. I will tell you I’ve never been undercover prior to going undercover in the Big Blue cockfighting operation. I will say not everyone will be able to do it and that includes physically and mentally. Definitely consider what you have to lose going in. It does affect your family, in the long run, depending on the time that you are undercover.
Audience Question: Richard you mentioned a phrase several times. What does it mean that a cock gets trimmed down? Can you explain that really quickly?
Richard Samuels: When it comes to fighting cocks, they do what they call trimming and dubbing. Basically, the natural spurs are trimmed down to about a quarter of an inch, what they use to attach the weapons (short knives and gaffes). The dubbing part is when they dub the combs, the wattles, and the ears on the birds before they start actively fighting. They do that when they are young stags.
Audience Question: How do you handle a bust in which a law enforcement officer or mayor or governor are also part of the crime of breeding, fighting and/or gambling? How do you handle that? I know you guys touched on this just a little bit in terms of being sensitive and being aware sometimes of the political landscape that is involved. Can you kind of expand on that?
Richard Samuels: Generally, if we feel like there is possible corruption involved, we reach out to the FBI. They have a division that is dedicated just for public corruption. They will do an investigation. Regarding a local sheriff or local deputy being involved in cockfighting, we generally make contact in VA with the attorney general’s office (animal law unit or a local prosecutor’s office), we give them a heads up of what we are getting ready to do and what possible fireworks he/she may see.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Advanced Cock Fighting Investigations and Prosecutions.