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33 arrested in C. Islip cockfighting bust

Pablo Lopez, 34, of Central Islip, is led

Pablo Lopez, 34, of Central Islip, is led out of the Fourth Precinct in Hauppauge for arraignment in Central Islip Criminal Court. He is charged with two felony counts of animal fighting. (Feb. 20, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk police have broken up a large cockfighting operation in Central Islip, arresting 33 people and removing 35 roosters from a residence known as the site of an illegal fighting ring using roosters, police said.

Officers serving a search warrant just after 9 p.m. Saturday found a cockfight going on in the basement of the home at 285 Half Mile Rd., police said, adding that more birds were stored in nearby cages inside the residence.

"This was a substantial bust," said Chief Roy Gross of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which assisted police.

An arrest two years ago at the same location in the working-class Central Islip neighborhood turned up 39 roosters, a fighting ring and gambling records. Four people were arrested in connection with that case.

Thirty-one spectators at the house during Saturday's bust were cited with appearance tickets and released. Two people who lived at the residence were each charged with two felony counts of animal fighting.

Rosa Medero, 37, owns the house, according to property records, and was arrested in the bust two years ago. Pablo Lopez, 34, was also arrested Saturday. Both were held overnight at the Fourth Precinct and arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Sunday morning. It was not clear whether Medero served any time in jail after her 2009 arrest, when she was charged with felony animal fighting and selling alcohol without a license.

Police also removed equipment Saturday designed to prepare the birds for fights: a fighting ring, scales and spectator seating, officials said.

Officers from the Third and Fourth Precinct Crime Section, Emergency Services, with the SPCA's aid, participated in the operation. Gross said cockfighting is not as common as it was years ago, but still occurs too often.

In May 2010, Suffolk police and the SPCA shut down a nine-rooster ring in North Bellport, and in October 2009 seized 24 birds from a Bay Shore home.

Cockfighting is still legal in some Central American and Caribbean countries and retains its popularity with some of those immigrant groups in the United States, said Fred Hawley, a criminologist at Western Carolina University who has researched cockfighting culture.

Medero and Lopez could not immediately be reached by phone.

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