Illegal Horse Slaughter Awareness event update.

On February the 9th, 2016, respected and renown equestrian Debbie Stephens, and ARM’s Richard Couto, hosted an Awareness Seminar, at The Winter Equestrian Festival Showgrounds of Wellington.

The topic on the agenda: to Combat Illegal Horse Slaughter and the gruesome Black Market Horse Meat Trade. “Who would have thought this would happen to any of us. I’m you. I’m just like you”,  grand prix rider Debbie Stephens stated to a room of concerned show jumping professionals and horse owners. Stephens partnered with Richard Couto of the Animal Recovery Mission to hold an awareness seminar in the wake of October’s events that put the prevalence of illegal horse slaughter into sharp focus for the Wellington, Florida horse community.

Stephens told her heartbreaking story of her new prospect Phedras de Blondel. Her hopeful champion horse was a Selle Francis gelding that had arrived at her Tampa-area Centennial Farm just two days prior to his slaughter. Phedras was taken from his stall in the middle of the night, and brutally butchered for his meat. “If I can protect one horse, ten horses, or all horses from this happening, that’s all that I want to do,”…. “It’s awful, but it’s something that everyone needs to know.”

Stephens, a veteran of international show jumping sport and a Team USA rider, was hoping to jumpstart her  career with Phedras de Blondel. But at 7:05am on October 25th, her groom came to her and said ‘Debbie, your new horse isn’t in his stall.’ After two hours of searching, her staff made the chilling discovery of Phedras mutilated body at the edge of the property.

“Never in a million years could you have prepared me for what I saw…..It was like somebody took me to a lower level. I didn’t cry, I didn’t get emotional, I couldn’t believe that anybody would ever do this to an animal. “– Debbie Stephens

Stephens stated that the worst thing, was how much the horse suffered”. She continued to explain that as they took him out of the barn, they took him in a direction that the horse would never go. He was scared. He tried to get away.Evidence collected from the necropsy and the crime scene proved that the horse was still alive as he was killed.

They are the kind of details that are hard to hear, and were certainly hard to accept had happened to her own horse. change your mindset whether your horse is in a paddock, or a stall, it’s easy to feel that he is protected and safe, Stephens said.


“It is a scary thought for horse owners,” …. “If you have horses in Palm Beach County or the state of Florida, you should be concerned.”. Richard ‘Kudo’ Couto.

Her barn had cameras, lights and other security features, but she never put herself in the place of someone determined to enter her property to steal a horse. Police investigations uncovered that Stephens was watched as she unloaded Phedras when he had arrived two nights prior, at about 12:30am, bringing to light the calculating nature of people who seek out a horse to abduct and butcher. In the wake of the tragedy, she re-examined everything about her operation, including how her property information was available through shipping records while the horse was in quarantine. “It has to be, in my mind, someone who is very comfortable handling a horse,” she said. “They used yellow rope to make a rope halter with lunge line, and the horse just followed them.” She rethought her existing barn security cameras, and added lasers that when broken, set off a series of alarms.

The more deterrents added, the more likely a thief will change their mind and leave. A scary thought but unfortunately, I’ve heard Debbie’s story hundreds of times in the state of Florida,” Couto said.

Richard Couto, Founder of a non-profit organization based out of Miami Beach, Florida. ARM was founded in 2010, after Couto began hearing about incidences of people being approached in the parking lots of Publix and Whole Foods, and even at their front door in Miami Dade county, and being offered horsemeat for sale.

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and began to look into the issue. To date, ARM has shut down over 135 illegal slaughterhouses in the state of Florida, some of them who are slaughtering 30 horses per week.

Although there’s a lot of money in the Wellington area, many people can’t afford elaborate security systems. Couto emphasized that having a barking dog on the property is often the most effective deterrent to thieves. Depending on the property, floodlights add another layer of security. So why are people so desperate to break into barns for horsemeat? Many people in the Cuban community think that it is a cure-all for medicinal purposes. Anything from libido, blood disease and lessening the effects of chemotherapy are incorrectly thought to be helped by consuming horse meat.

The larger and more beautiful a horse is, the more its meat is valued for these purposes. That does put show horses at risk more than other breeds or types. Couto mentioned that during undercover investigations, he and his team have heard the butchers openly discuss Wellington and the horse community there. “No horse is safe in the state of Florida,” he said. “It’s a concern that we have here, that most people don’t have in other parts of the country. ARM played a part in forming the The Good Horse Slaughter Act, which is the most severe anti-horse slaughter law in the United States. Being caught with horsemeat carries a minimum, 1 – 5 prison sentence, making the crime of possessing horsemeat more serious than possession of cocaine. Now, when people are caught illegally slaughtering horses, there is real punishment.

ARM is currently undercover at four locations in Florida, working to gather the evidence needed to shut slaughterhouses down. They are starting to see people turn away from illegal slaughter, complaining that the risk of being caught is too high. “It’s a slow process, but the process has to keep going,” Couto said. “This was not a one time case that happened to Debbie. The illegal slaughter industry in Florida is an industry, unlike in any other state.” It all comes down to awareness, Couto and Stephens emphasized, both in the awareness to protect one’s property and horses, and also to be aware of what’s happening in the judicial system when an individual is charged with possession of horsemeat. “The more people that know about it, the more they are going to complain, and scream and shout, and not let people get away with it,” Couto said.

The audience members inquired about what they could to as a community to ensure that there are forces combatting these crimes and enforcing justice to these criminals. The answer is, ARM investigators, who dedicate their lives to finding these criminals, shutting down their illegal operations altogether and invoke prosecution.

Click here to learn more about illegal horse slaughter and The Black Market Horse Meat Trade.

Photos credited to Phelps Sports.com Allyson Lagiovane and Animal Recovery Mission

Full length recording of the presentation coming soon!

saving animals

BREAKING NEWS : OPERATION GAFF HOOK RAID

BREAKING NEWS: OPERATION GAFF HOOK STRIKE!


Special Response Unit, Law Enforcement and ARM’s Founder, ‘Kudo’ discuss tactics prior to the bust.

In the dawn hours of October 17th, a convoy of specialized tactical agencies and units joined forces to execute a strike on the ‘illegal slaughter house of horrors’, which ARM had been undercover for a grueling seven months.

What was uncovered, in a rural area of South Miami (Florida), known as the ‘Redlands’, was a long list of felony charges of extreme animal cruelty, inhumane slaughter, un-licensced selling of meat for human consumption and neglect, amongst a long list of shocking animal cruelty related charges.

In an alarming twist of events, ARM, law enforcment agencies and the Miami Dade State Attorney’s office unveiled additional incriminating evidence of suspected horse meat distribution, felony thefts of endangered wildlife and felonies involving the killing of protected species, whilst searching the property.

The property, titled by ARM as Operation Gaff Hook, was given it’s name because of the use of large fishing instrument gaff hooks that were used to drag the pigs to the butcher area prior to being slaughtered, whilst alive. This was a procedure never before witnessed by ARM investigators who were undercover since May of 2015. It was also a method that was one of the most traumatising for the animals to endure.

The animal offenders arrested were, Angel Ricardo Vargas (45) on five counts of felony animal cruelty with a $50,000 bond and a nebbia hold that was placed as a condition. If bonded out, Vargas will be placed on house arrest with GPS tracking monitor. His wife Mayelin Rodriguez (40) was also arrested for two counts of animal cruelty with a $25,000 bond. The same conditions were ordered including the nebbia condition on the bond and a house arrest and GPS, if bonded out.

saving animals


ARM’s emergency animal response team jumps into action to save sick and abused animals.

The Judge at the following morning’s bond hearing, Mindy Glaser, commented that this was not a normal case and that the manner of this case was extreme and very disturbing.

The details of this case are ongoing and more information will be updated as the case evolves. To learn more about this investigation by clicking here.

Watch on the scene reports here:

Sneak peek of on the day action. More coming soon!

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BREAKING NEWS ARCHIVE – ARM’S undercover investigations that spurred the largest animal strike force in the U.S.

HAPPENING RIGHT NOW! ARM’S UNDERCOVER INVESTIGATIONS SPUR THE LARGEST ANIMAL CRUELTY RESCUE OPERATION IN THE U.S!

On daybreak of October 13th, 2015 state and federal law enforcement teams executed a first of it’s kind tactical operation, spurred by ARM’s six month intensive undercover investigation in the Greater Wellington area in Florida. This animal cruelty bust was considered to be the largest of it’s kind in history.

Simultaneously, three illegal animal slaughter farms were raided by S.W.A.T, gang strike force teams and even the bomb squad which was called in when a rocket launcher and suspicious paraphernalia were discovered on the Rancho Garcia property.

By mid morning six animal offenders were arrested for illegal and inhumane crimes against animals. These included:
G.A Paso Fino Slaughter Farm property owner, Orlando Guzman, Edgar Bica Snr and Edgar Bica Jnr. From the second targeted property, Rancho Garcia, property owner Jorge Garcia and Rafael Ramirez and finally form Medina Farm, owner Monieram Rathibhan and Jose Reyes were all arrested.

Leading News Story

Watch how ARM took down three illegal slaughter farms in one day !

Garcia was arrested on two charges of causing cruel death to conservation animals and two counts of torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. His bond was set at $6,000. In addition, Rafael Ramirez was arrested and charged with the selling, buying and possession of horsemeat without a stamp, causing cruel death to conservation animals and torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. His bond was set at $9,000.

G.A Paso FIno’s, Edgar Bica Sr. and Edgar Bica Jr. were both charged with causing cruel death to conservation animals and torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. Their bonds were both set at $3,000 each.

Medina Farms, Jose Reyes was arrested and charged with causing cruel death to conservation animals, threatening to kill or harm horses or cattle and torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. His bond was set at $11,000. Monieram Rathibhan, 58, was also arrested and charged with causing cruel death to conservation animals, threatening to kill or harm horses or cattle and torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. His bond was set at $9,000.

These crimes included, but are not limited to; illegal animal slaughter farms for human consumption, animal sacrifice sales, animal fighting and some of the most incomprehensible backyard dog breeding businesses that ARM undercover investigators have witnessed. These dogs were being locked in small cages with no food or water and left to fester in their own excrements.

Animal Fighting paraphernalia and horse meat in the freezers were also collected as evidence during the raid
on both Rancho Garcia and G.A Paso Fino. At this point, Rafael Ramirez has been charged for the possession of horse meat for human consiumption and awaits further charges. These will lead to serious felony convictions if the meat returns back as positive to horse meat. Another shocking revelation that will be further investigated by both the Animal Recovery Mission, crime scene and Florida Fish and Game departments.

In a breaking news update, and due to the discovery of even more evidence found upon the raids, The Animal Recovery Mission is now offering a $15,000 reward for any persons who can come forth with information leading to the conviction and arrest of horse killers in the Palm Beach and Miami Dade county’s were a strong connection of an underground market and trafficking has been revealed.

Almost 750 animals were seizure between the three farms. The Animal Recovery Mission has been granted ownership of the animals that are not at animal control for testing (pigs and chickens). They will live their lives out in peace on ARM’s newly developed sanctuary division.

The Sanctuary was created prematurely due to the lack of lifelong sanctuaries in the state of Florida and any donation of feed, supplies, building renovation, vet care or monetary donations are greatly appreciated in the efforts to provide a better life for the abused animals.

Please visit the websites CONTRIBUTE to learn more how you can help. For major gifts, foundations and fundraising queries please contact Rachel Taylor at taylor@arminvestigations.org

More shocking discoveries were revealed in ARM’s investigations of the barbaric slaughter and unlawful selling of horse meat for the human consumption. Considered a serious felony charge in the state of Florida, this revelation became even more disturbing that the locations of these businesses were located a mere 25 minutes from one of the most prestigious and renown equestrian showing communities in the United States, quite possibly the world – Wellington, Florida.

Operation Rancho Garcia >  click here to learn more.

Operation  G.A Paso Fino>  click here to learn more.

Operation Medina >  click here to learn more.

Learn more by visiting the links to the three raided properties above and stay tuned by visiting our social media pages to read about latest updates!

Sneak pics of the tactical strikes of Garcia, Paso Fino and Medina Farms.

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Breaking News: Loxahatchee Raids

ARM’S UNDERCOVER INVESTIGATIONS SPUR THE LARGEST ANIMAL CRUELTY RESCUE OPERATION IN THE U.S!

On daybreak of October 13th, 2015 state and federal law enforcement teams executed a first of it’s kind tactical operation, spurred by ARM’s six month intensive undercover investigation in the Greater Wellington area in Florida. This animal cruelty bust was considered to be the largest of it’s kind in history.

Simultaneously, three illegal animal slaughter farms were raided by S.W.A.T, gang strike force teams and even the bomb squad which was called in when a rocket launcher and suspicious paraphernalia were discovered on the Rancho Garcia property.

By mid morning six animal offenders were arrested for illegal and inhumane crimes against animals. These included:
G.A Paso Fino Slaughter Farm property owner, Orlando Guzman, Edgar Bica Snr and Edgar Bica Jnr. From the second targeted property, Rancho Garcia, property owner Jorge Garcia and Rafael Ramirez and finally form Medina Farm, owner Monieram Rathibhan and Jose Reyes were all arrested.

Leading News Story

Watch how ARM took down three illegal slaughter farms in one day !

Garcia was arrested on two charges of causing cruel death to conservation animals and two counts of torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. His bond was set at $6,000. In addition, Rafael Ramirez was arrested and charged with the selling, buying and possession of horsemeat without a stamp, causing cruel death to conservation animals and torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. His bond was set at $9,000.

G.A Paso FIno’s, Edgar Bica Sr. and Edgar Bica Jr. were both charged with causing cruel death to conservation animals and torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. Their bonds were both set at $3,000 each.

Medina Farms, Jose Reyes was arrested and charged with causing cruel death to conservation animals, threatening to kill or harm horses or cattle and torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. His bond was set at $11,000. Monieram Rathibhan, 58, was also arrested and charged with causing cruel death to conservation animals, threatening to kill or harm horses or cattle and torment, deprivation, mutilation or killing of conservation animals. His bond was set at $9,000.

These crimes included, but are not limited to; illegal animal slaughter farms for human consumption, animal sacrifice sales, animal fighting and some of the most incomprehensible backyard dog breeding businesses that ARM undercover investigators have witnessed. These dogs were being locked in small cages with no food or water and left to fester in their own excrements.

Animal Fighting paraphernalia and horse meat in the freezers were also collected as evidence during the raid
on both Rancho Garcia and G.A Paso Fino. At this point, Rafael Ramirez has been charged for the possession of horse meat for human consiumption and awaits further charges. These will lead to serious felony convictions if the meat returns back as positive to horse meat. Another shocking revelation that will be further investigated by both the Animal Recovery Mission, crime scene and Florida Fish and Game departments.

In a breaking news update, and due to the discovery of even more evidence found upon the raids, The Animal Recovery Mission is now offering a $15,000 reward for any persons who can come forth with information leading to the conviction and arrest of horse killers in the Palm Beach and Miami Dade county’s were a strong connection of an underground market and trafficking has been revealed.

Almost 750 animals were seizure between the three farms. The Animal Recovery Mission has been granted ownership of the animals that are not at animal control for testing (pigs and chickens). They will live their lives out in peace on ARM’s newly developed sanctuary division.

The Sanctuary was created prematurely due to the lack of lifelong sanctuaries in the state of Florida and any donation of feed, supplies, building renovation, vet care or monetary donations are greatly appreciated in the efforts to provide a better life for the abused animals.

Please visit the websites CONTRIBUTE to learn more how you can help. For major gifts, foundations and fundraising queries please contact Rachel Taylor at taylor@arminvestigations.org

More shocking discoveries were revealed in ARM’s investigations of the barbaric slaughter and unlawful selling of horse meat for the human consumption. Considered a serious felony charge in the state of Florida, this revelation became even more disturbing that the locations of these businesses were located a mere 25 minutes from one of the most prestigious and renown equestrian showing communities in the United States, quite possibly the world – Wellington, Florida.

Operation Rancho Garcia >  click here to learn more.

Operation  G.A Paso Fino>  click here to learn more.

Operation Medina >  click here to learn more.

Learn more by visiting the links to the three raided properties above and stay tuned by visiting our social media pages to read about latest updates!

Sneak pics of the tactical strikes of Garcia, Paso Fino and Medina Farms.