BUSHWICK — An elderly man convicted for his involvement in a massive cockfighting ring two years ago has been re-arrested and charged with similar offenses, following two raids of his Central Avenue home, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
Jeremias Nieves, 77, was charged Wednesday with an array of animal cruelty charges and other counts, following sweeps of his home at 71 Central Ave.
“What some people may erroneously refer to as a blood sport is actuality animal cruelty in its most brutalizing form. In this case, the defendant is accused of showing his contempt for the justice system by willfully violating a lawful court order banning him from possessing any animals and selling birds to fight,” DA Brown said.
In the raid on his basement roof and backyard, investigators found cockfighting paraphernalia and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confiscated dozens of chickens and other animals, prosecutors said.
The fact that Nieves had any animals at all violated the terms of his 2014 release, that banned him from owning any animals for three years, prosecutors said.
The investigation was launched in December based on a tip to NYPD’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad who confiscated 32 roosters, according to prosecutors.
Four of the roosters had "stubs," meaning that the pointed part of the spur was sawed off in order to attach a "gaff" which is a metal spur used during fights. Other birds had been "debeaked," prosecutors said. Investigators also found gaffs, sparring gloves and a poultry shipping box addressed to Nieves.
Police returned to the Central Avenue home on Feb. 16 with a search warrant and found more cockfighting gear, including 15 gaffs (spurs), 15 dremel tool attachments, that can be used to grind down spurs and 15 beak bits used to prevent pecking.
They also confiscated 68 chickens (13 roosters and 55 hens), many of whom were in deplorable conditions, prosecutors charged, with visible lice, yellow lesions, swelling from injuries, infections and frostbite.
In that raid animal control also confiscated a Boston terrier named Lula who was underweight and had fleas, hair loss and skin infections and a sick rabbit named Luna Park who was dehydrated and had ear mites causing them to be "itchy and painful," prosecutors said.
Nieves, who was in Puerto Rico at the time of that raid, recently returned to New York to face charges, according to prosecutors and a family member. It wasn't immediately clear why he wasn't arrested after the December raid.
Nieves, who couldn't be reached immediately, could face up to four years in prison if convicted of the latest charges against him.
His son, Felix, 55, reached at the pet store he runs, admitted that his father violated the main condition of his release, but claimed that his father wasn't guilty of anything more.
"There was never any cockfighting. [Were] there chickens, yes, there were rabbits, yes," said Felix, who now runs Pet NV, below where his father lives, and denied all the accusations against him. "He's depressed. I told him to go back to Puerto Rico. This is not a farm, you can't have animals like you do there."
"He was a vet. People bring their animals. I constantly battle him to not take anything back," he said. "He's a hoarder. He just keeps taking them."
Nieves was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on July 11.