The Patrick County Sheriff’s Office released Tuesday the names of 80 people who have been arrested as a result of an 18-month investigation into illegal cockfighting in Claudville.
Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith said in an email Sunday that more than 50 officers from multiple law enforcement agencies executed a search warrant at 435 Long Branch Road at 1245 p.m. on Saturday. Smith said the site was the venue, and had been on multiple past occasions, for illegal cockfighting.
Evidence collected during the investigation shows that the operation is Mexican-based, and participants from as far as Texas and Georgia allegedly traveled to engage in the illegal activity, according to Smith. Cock fighting is classified as a felony under Virginia law.
Two on the list were from Henry County — Oscar Garcia Galindo, 39, of 397 Garrett Road in Ridgeway and Isreal Carcia Galindo, 34, of 880 Whispering Pines Road in Axton — but most were from North Carolina.
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In a phone interview Tuesday, Smith said investigators believe that part of the money from the cockfighting was used by drug cartels for other criminal activities.
Smith estimated that about 120 people were present when the operation Saturday was conducted. Eighty of them were arrested, and about 40 got away, he said.
Cash, methamphetamine, firearms, multiple-edged weapons and assorted property, including vehicles, were seized from the property.
Patrick County Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Vipperman has said the case is being prosecuted under the state’s RICO statute (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act).
Patrick County Sheriff’s Lt. Eric O’Connell, who led the investigation, has indicated that evidence shows that the ring was an elaborate, well-organized operation that traveled to several different venues in both Virginia and North Carolina.
Large sums of money were bet on the fights, and methamphetamine was commonly dealt at the venue as well.
“Evidence obtained leads us to believe that Mexican drug cartels operating in the region had a clear and definite presence,” O’Connell has stated.
The property is owned by Phillip Baldwin, 53, who lives at the site and was present during the execution of the search warrant, according to Smith. Baldwin was among those arrested on Sunday.
Smith said numerous chicken carcasses were found along with several caged chickens waiting to be fought. Gaffs, or elongated razors, were found attached to the spurs of both live and dead chickens.