Ceres man pleads guilty to running cockfighting, rooster breeding business with thousands of birds

·1 min read
Ted Benson/Modesto Bee file

A Ceres man pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to running a cockfighting and gamecock breeding business, the U.S. Attorney’s Office eastern California district announced.

Court documents show 74-year-old Joseph D. Sanford owned and operated Joe Sanford Gamefarm out of Ceres where he bred, sold and fought roosters.

Federal agents purchased three fighting birds while undercover at an unspecified date, according to documents. They then searched the farm, where Sanford also lived, and found a cockfighting enterprise with 2,956 game fowl.

In December 2019, a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Sanford.

He pleaded guilty to charges related to violating the Animal Welfare Act. He admitting to breeding and fighting roosters and shipping game fowl within the United States and internationally to Mexico, Peru and the Philippines.

“The gruesome act of animal fighting has no place in a civilized society and will not be tolerated,” said Dusty Cladis, acting special agent in charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General. “Our agency has prioritized dismantling animal fighting organizations as we continue to pursue those who would take pleasure and profit in inflicting misery and death upon these defenseless creatures.”

Multiple federal agencies and animal service agencies, as well as the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office, assisted on the case.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Marshals Service assisted with “disposal of the fighting roosters and placement of the hens in an animal sanctuary.”

Sanford’s sentencing is scheduled for March 11. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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