On Friday, a judge sentenced three of the eight men who were arrested last month in Loxahatchee on charges that they were operating illegal slaughterhouses and selling horse meat. Each of the three pleaded guilty in a plea deal. The arrests were part of what was described as the largest
Investigators with the nonprofit Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) had gone undercover at three illegal farms for months —- ARM Founder Ricard Couto explained to New Times how they did it — and found that farmworkers had boiled pigs alive, skinned animals alive, and let animals drown in their own blood.
Neighbors had complained over the years about garbage, the stench of dead animals, the sound of animal screams, and the smell of smoldering animal hair and flesh, as well as constant sighting of goats and pigs being herded into the farms.
One of the farmers, Jorge Garcia, operated the Rancho Garcia farm — located at 15703 Orange Blvd. in Loxahatchee — had been purchasing horses from animal auctions and Craigslist for the purpose of slaughtering them and selling their meat for consumption. Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control reportedly had visited Garcia at his farms several times throughout the years but uncovered very little. Garcia insisted that everything inside was on the up-and-up.
"They are lying. Whoever is telling you these things needs to talk to me face to face," Garcia told WPTV in 2013.
But after ARM went undercover and showed video evidence to police, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office arranged the raid and seized more than 750 animals.
Investigators found that some of the animals killed were being sold for black magic and sacrificial purposes. Garcia also used part of his land to run a puppy mill.
Friday, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer accepted plea deals on behalf of three of the defendants — only one of whom got actual jail time. Edgar Bica, 49, was sentenced to five months in the Palm Beach County Jail, with probation to follow, while Bica's father,
The video below, courtesy of ARM, allegedly shows some of the illegal operations detailed in the charges the eight men faced.
(Warning: The video is graphic and may not be safe for work.)