CONROE- A New Caney area man keeps finding himself in front of a judge because of what police say was a large-scale cockfighting operation raided on Dec. 14 at his home in the 16700 block of FM 1485 near Pickering Road.
Luis Arias Benitez, 41, was arrested by livestock deputies from the Pct. 5 Constable’s Office Friday evening, four “cruelty to animals” warrants. The charge against Benitez is a state jail felony because he is accused of causing animals (roosters) to fight one another. Benitez was released on a total of $6,000 bond on Saturday.
To watch on-scene video from Dec. 14, click the arrow below. To read more, scroll down.
Members of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Pct. 5 livestock officers raided Benitez’s residence during an alleged rooster fighting event on Dec. 14, arresting him and four others. All five men were charged with “possession of gambling paraphernalia and gambling promotion” and Benitez was also charged with “keeping a gambling place.” Benitez was later released on $2,250 bond.
Lt. Philip Cash, who heads up the MCSO SIU, said a large crowd at the residence began “running and jumping fences,” with dozens escaping. Around 60 vehicles were abandoned in the chaos, many with caged roosters beside or inside them.
Pct. 5 Deputy Don Smith said 193 fighting roosters and 21 hens were removed. Around 30 roosters were found dead on the property with 20 of them thrown into a hole.
MCSO officials later released a statement saying; “testosterone and other substances used to enhance the fighting capabilities of the birds, spurs, syringes, and other paraphernalia” were recovered along with a pistol, two shotguns and approximately $4,000 in US currency.
On Dec. 23, Benitez appeared before Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts at a hearing regarding the fate of the chickens seized during the raid. Metts said Benitez, speaking through an interpreter, told the judge he was unaware that hosting rooster fighting events was illegal and he was merely “trying to support his family.”
Metts considered the evidence and witness statements. Despite Benitez’s heartfelt plea, the judge awarded all of the birds seized to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and ordered Benitez to pay over $6,800 to the SPCA for related expenses.
Benitez will be tried on the cruelty to animals charges in the 410th District Court Judge K. Michael Mayes.
Public Data shows Benitez’s prior convictions include two charges of driving while intoxicated in 2006. The arrests occurred less than a month apart in September and October. He pleaded guilty on both charges and was sentenced to three months probation in one count and nine months probation in the other.