POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. –Two men pleaded guilty to running a cockfighting operation in Powhatan County that involved more than 300 fighting birds.
Isaias Andrade Andiola, 41, of Powhatan, was sentenced to six months of active incarceration with an additional 4.5 years suspended after pleading guilty to five felony counts of animal fighting, and 12 months in jail with 12 months suspended for five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Andiola will also be barred from owning or possessing animals for life and must pay $3,473 in restitution.
Juan Jose Benitez, 42, of Powhatan, was sentenced to 12 months in jail with 12 months suspended and $3,473 in restitution after pleading guilty on April 26, 2018 to one count of misdemeanor aiding and abetting animal fighting and one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Benitez served 50 days of active incarceration while awaiting trial and will also be banned from owning or possessing animals for five years.
According to evidence presented to the court, Andiola and Benitez oversaw an animal fighting operation out of a property on Manakin Town Ferry Road in Powhatan County. An investigation produced evidence that the men set up a cockfighting operation at the property and raised and sparred gamebirds.
Authorities seized more than 300 gamebirds from the property, along with a dog and two pigs. A large quantity of animal fighting paraphernalia was seized from the property including 122 short knives, sparring muffs, and medication and supplements used to enhance the gamebirds ability to fight.
The cases were prosecuted by attorneys with Attorney General Herring’s first in the nation Animal Law Unit, with assistance from Powhatan officials, the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, Louisa CART, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the ASPCA.
In 2015, Herring created the nation’s first OAG Animal Law Unit to serve as a training and prosecution resource for state agencies, investigators, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys around the state dealing with matters involving animal fighting, cruelty, and welfare. Illegal animal fighting is closely tied to illegal gambling, drug and alcohol crimes, and violence against animals has been shown to be linked to violence towards other people.
To date the unit has handled more than 667 matters, to include training, prosecutions, and consultations.