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“Chicken Joe” sentenced for illegal game fighting
fighting cock
An example of a rooster raised for illegal cock fighting.

FRESNO, Calif. — Joseph D. Sanford, 74, of Ceres, aka “Chicken Joe,” was sentenced today to 16 months in prison and a fined $25,000 for conspiring to sell, buy, possess, train, transport, deliver and receive game fowl intended to be used in animal fighting ventures, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, Sanford was the owner and operator of Joe Sanford Game Farm in rural Keyes/Ceres, where he bred and sold gamecocks for cockfighting. Cockfighting is illegal under federal law and in all 50 states. Sanford also fought his own roosters.

Following an undercover purchase of a trio of fighting game birds, federal agents searched Joe Sanford Game Farm, where Sanford resides, and found a large cockfighting enterprise consisting of 2,956 game fowl. Sanford shipped game fowl for cockfighting within the United States and to Mexico, Peru, and the Philippines.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General (USDA-OIG), with assistance from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the IRS Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office. Assistance was also provided by the Humane Society of the United States, the El Dorado and Placer County Animal Services.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Marshals’ Service also provided assistance in the disposal of the fighting roosters and placement of the hens in an animal sanctuary.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar prosecuted the case.