ROCKFORD — More than 100 roosters have been seized amid a drug investigation that uncovered underground cockfighting in rural Winnebago County, police said.
Salvador Jimenez Gutierrez, 50, of the 2900 block of Cunningham Road, west of Rockford, was charged on Tuesday in Winnebago County Circuit Court with a single count of possession of animals used for fighting purposes. The complaint states that Gutierrez “possessed multiple fowl” that he knew were used for fighting, but few details have been disclosed, including the precise number of birds involved.
Bob Redmond, Winnebago County Jail superintendent and a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, estimated that 150 roosters were confiscated.
“We’re not doing an investigation into the cockfighting,” Redmond said. “We were assisting the federal government with a drug investigation.”
No probable cause statement was filed with the complaint. This document typically contains information about the alleged crime and is used to show that law enforcement believes there is enough evidence to charge an individual with that crime.
Katie Zimmerman, spokeswoman for the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office, said Friday that the charge was filed after a search warrant was served on Nov. 14 at the Cunningham Road home.
Cockfighting has been linked across the country with illegal guns, gambling and drugs. Drug Enforcement Administration agents often learn about cockfighting or dogfighting operations through drug investigations, according to the Humane Society for the United States. Money often is wagered on which birds will win, and birds that don’t die often have injuries.
The birds were taken by Winnebago County Animal Services, but no details were provided about their conditions or whereabouts.
Animal Services Director Jennifer Stacy and Administrator Brett Frazier weren’t available for comment.
Redmond directed further comment to Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Schneider. Messages were left Friday for Schneider, the Rockford branch chief, but she wasn’t available for comment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pedersen said federal prosecutors would not comment.
No federal charges had been filed by Friday, Redmond said.
The charge against Gutierrez is a Class 4 felony. If convicted, he faces one to three years in prison and a fine capped at $25,000.
Gutierrez wasn’t listed as an inmate in the Winnebago County Jail and by Friday afternoon no court date had been set in this case. It was not known whether Gutierrez had been arrested or remains free.
Kristen Zambo: 815-987-1339; email@example.com; @KristenZambo