PHOENIX -- Sheriff Arpaio announced today that 17 of the 40 suspects who were arrested over the weekend for being present at a cockfight are suspected of being illegal aliens.
Included in the 17 is the homeowner, Pedro Reyes-Lopez, 43, who is also facing various felony charges.
Evidence including scales and gaffs (sharpened knives for the birds) were found on the premises.
The raid, at a home near 6th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road, came after tip to the sheriff's animal cruelty hotline, part of the department's Animal Crimes Investigations Unit.
Deputies said they found a cockfight in progress in the backyard of the home when they executed a search warrant Saturday night. They also reported finding 23 birds that were either deceased, badly injured or awaiting their turn to fight.
"This is a very vicious crime I know in some South American countries it's legal but it's illegal here." explained Arpaio.
Arpaio said deputies also found cocaine at the house and approximately $8,000.00 in cash.
In addition, a utility crew from Arizona Public Service was called out because it appeared the occupants of the home had tampered with the utility equipment on the property and may have been stealing electricity.
Arpaio said some of the people arrested had outstanding warrants and a few may have been arrested in the past at a different cockfighting raid in Tonopah.
They are facing misdemeanor charges for being present at a cockfight. If investigators can identify the people who were in control of the cockfight operation they will face more serious charges.
Arpaio went on to say, "We're going to continue cracking down on animal cruelty no matter if it's cockfighting, dogs, cats, horses, I take it very serious and when we do make arrests the people go directly to jail."