MANHATTAN (CN) — For more than four years, a Bronx schoolteacher kept a farm that helped him moonlight as a supplier of between 40 and 45 chickens for cockfighting contests, federal prosecutors said in their latest animal-cruelty crackdown.
Hector Cruz, a 59-year-old teacher from P.S. 211, can face up to five years in prison if convicted of selling, possessing and transporting those birds for cockfighting.
Police say that they spotted between 40 and 45 hens and roosters at Cruz's property on Feb. 11, 2016. The complaint does not specify the location in the Bronx of this backyard farm.
From December 2012 to January this year, Cruz used social media to sell the fowl under the pseudonym “Rajah Khan,” a play on words for “Bird King,” prosecutors say.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that Cruz’s customers used these birds for “vicious cockfights where knives and other sharp instruments are attached to the fighting roosters’ legs.”
The 10-page criminal complaint, filed on Wednesday with a federal judge in Manhattan, is filled with salacious pitches Cruz is said to have given customers.
In one private message to a potential customer about a prized cockfighting rooster, according to the complaint, Cruz touted how well “great Aseel” performed at a bout in Ramapo Mountain, New Jersey.
“Well from what I have seen from them they are some real good chickens and really great for the making of the battle-cross,” Cruz allegedly wrote on Dec. 18, 2012.
The next April, Cruz hawked a different type of gamefowl called the “Atkinson,” asking that the customer send $100 to an address in Yonkers, prosecutors say.
“The Atkinson were selected from the best Sonatol with certain virtues, features and talent in mind ... while basically the same bird ... the selection over the years have made them quite different physically and in fighting styles that address different weapons and modes of fighting,” Cruz wrote, according to the complaint (ellipses in original).
Prosecutors say that those weapons included gaffs, knives and postizas, different types of blades that come in multiple sizes.
Cruz, who is said to have earned up to $600 per rooster, claimed not to participate in the cockfighting.
“I don't fight my birds either — but, I do supply fighters with battle worthy birds who deliver in the pit,” Cruz allegedly wrote on Nov. 16, 2013, ending the message with a winking and smiling emoticon.
Cruz’s attorney did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment.
The New York Daily News reported that Cruz teaches English as a second language at P.S. 211, earning $94,173 a year.
P.S. 211 is just below the Fordham Heights area of the Bronx, home to the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.