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Charges filed against 3 in suspected cockfighting ring

BALSAM LAKE -- Three brothers have been charged for the second time this year with cockfighting-related crimes in western Wisconsin. 

Ernesto, Idelio, and Agustin Benitez all appeared in Polk County Circuit Court yesterday -- each on 20 criminal counts. 

The brothers were charged in March by St. Croix County prosecutors after a suspected cockfighting ring was broken up in Glenwood City.

The Benitezes are due back in court next Tuesday for preliminary hearings. 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals helped Polk and St. Croix County authorities seize almost 1,200 roosters and hens on Tuesday in raids at four locations, including one in the town of Forest. 

A fighting pit was also seized, along with dagger-like devices attached to birds to spur injuries. A similar scene was found in January in Glenwood City, where St. Croix County investigators found a bloodied pit suspected of staging the fights, along with the dagger-like accouterments.

Many of the roosters located Tuesday were said to be badly injured. Fifty-seven year old Idelio Benitez of Amery, his 56-year-old brother Agustin of Turtle Lake, and 48-year-old Ernesto of Amery, are all charged with 10 felony counts of instigating animal fights as trainers. They also face 10 misdemeanor counts of bail jumping, in connection to the St. Croix County charges. 

All three have pre-trial hearings in those cases in late July. 

Idelio and Agustin Benitez are also charged with obstructing police in their latest investigation. All three were given signature bonds, and they each had to post $1,000 before they could go free. 

Online court records showed that Idelio Benitez was the only one to post bond by late Wednesday. 

Doug Stohlberg

Doug Stohlberg has been part of the Hudson Star-Observer since 1973 and has been editor since 1987. He worked at the New Richmond News from 1971 to 1973. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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