SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – After a two-day trial presided by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gustavo Gelpi, a Puerto Rican man was found guilty Tuesday of possessing and training animals for dog fighting. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation that led to the arrest and subsequent conviction.
According to the original charging document, Ehbrin Castro-Correa arrived March 4, 2016 at the Pan-American Dock in a pickup truck with several dogs inside crates. At approximately 5:45 p.m., HSI special agents observed he placed six crates, each containing a dog, in the luggage drop-off area before he presented his boarding pass to board the Caribbean Fantasy Ferry.
Castro-Correa presented documentation showing he was the owner of the six Spanish bulldog canines. He then went to check in to board the ferry where he showed the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers a boarding pass. The boarding pass indicated that he was traveling to the Dominican Republic along with pets. The CBP officer referred him to a secondary inspection in which he was subject to a more thorough search of his belongings.
During the inspection, HSI special agents interviewed Castro-Correa who indicated that he was transporting the canines to the Dominican Republic, he was paid $800 to do so, and the canines belonged to someone else.
HSI special agents subsequently inspected Castro-Correa’s cellular phone, which contained three videos: an original six-minute video of a dog fight and two shorter clips made of that same video. The six-minute video depicts a fight between two pit bull female dogs and two men are overheard encouraging the canines to fight. Castro-Correa admitted that he filmed the video recording. The two clips of the original video were transmitted in interstate and foreign commerce using WhatsApp.
The criminal complaint further alleged that a search of Castro-Correa’s residence in Rio Grande revealed several man-made cages and pits that did not have any overhead cover exposing the dogs to the elements. The dogs inside the cages appeared to be adult dogs that could barely fit inside the cages. HSI special agents observed a total 25 dogs, nine of them puppies, in deplorable conditions. Some were chained or tied to a structure while others were caged and/or exposed to the elements with dirty water containers. Most dogs appeared to be pit bulls and some of them had scars in their muzzle areas and faces. Inside the residence, HSI special agents found a man-made treadmill designed for training dogs, old newspaper articles of dog fights, a bag containing what appeared to be antibiotics, iron and calcium supplements for dogs, dressing compounds and medication that requires the use of syringes along with an open bag containing several syringes.
On June 12, 2017, with jury selection about to begin, Castro-Correa entered a plea of guilty to participating in a dogfight on Jan. 24, 2016 in Juncos. However, at his sentencing hearing Dec 19, 2017, he refused to take responsibility for his crime. The court vacated the defendant’s guilty plea and then set the case back on the trial schedule. He was found guilty Tuesday.