Mexican National Residing in Bakersfield Pleads Guilty to Illegal Cockfighting in Violation of the Animal Welfare Act

Mexican National Residing in Bakersfield Pleads Guilty to Illegal Cockfighting in Violation of the Animal Welfare Act

RESNO, Calif. — Horacio Ortega-Martinez, 35, a Mexican national residing in Bakersfield, pleaded guilty today to unlawful possession of animals for an animal fighting venture, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, in February 2022, Ortega-Martinez communicated frequently with Jorge Calderon-Campos, 41, (charged separately) about illegal cockfighting events, including an event Calderon-Campos attended on February 12 at which 15 roosters fought to win a $5,000 purse. On April 26, 2022, numerous law enforcement agencies served a search warrant at Ortega-Martinez’s residence and discovered approximately 250 roosters, approximately 250 “gaffs” (razor-sharp steel blades that are tied to the birds’ legs), training mitts commonly used for training and fighting roosters, and miscellaneous antibiotics, vitamins, and supplements that are commonly used for breeding and training roosters for fighting.

Ortega-Martinez and Calderon-Campos were arrested on April 26, 2022, along with six other Kern County residents who were also charged with various drug trafficking offenses.

This case is the product of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, the Kern County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Bakersfield Police Department, the Kern County Probation Department, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General and the California Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Ortega-Martinez is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 3, 2023, by U.S. District Judge Jennifer L. Thurston. Ortega-Martinez faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Charges are pending against Calderon-Campos. The charges are only allegations; he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

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