Westport Farm Owner, 26 Tenants Indicted in New England’s Largest Animal Cruelty Case
Authorities Found More Than 1,400 Animals in Varying Levels of Distress; Defendants Indicted on 151 Counts
BOSTON — The owner of a Westport Farm and 26 tenants that rent out space on the property have been indicted on multiple charges of animal cruelty, making it the largest investigation of its kind in New England, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The 151-count animal cruelty indictment returned by a Statewide Grand Jury on Thursday is the result of an investigation by Westport Police, Massachusetts Environmental Police assigned to the AG’s Office, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Rescue League of Boston. The investigation began in July 2016 when Westport Police were called about allegations of animal cruelty at a 70-acre farm in Westport owned by Richard Medeiros and rented out to multiple tenants.
“Hundreds of animals on this farm were kept in deplorable and dangerous conditions, with inadequate food, water, or shelter, many of them suffering from severe health ailments that required them to be euthanized,” said AG Healey. “As a result of our investigation, the owner of this farm and its tenants will be held responsible for the inhumane treatment of these animals.”
“The ASPCA is pleased to see these indictments handed down after providing months of care to get these animals on the road to recovery,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team. “The conditions in Westport were among the worst we have ever encountered and we commend Attorney General Healey for pursuing justice for these animals and hope the community will continue to make the welfare of animals a priority.”
“This situation is unparalleled to anything I’ve seen in my 37 years as an animal law enforcement officer. The sheer number of animals in dire need of care, and the cruel and unsanitary conditions we found were deplorable. It took an all-out effort of state and local officials along with multiple humane organizations to get all of those animals out of that horrible situation,” said Lt. Alan Borgal, Animal Rescue League of Boston.
“The alleged treatment and living conditions of these animals is unacceptable and inhumane, and the Department of Agricultural Resources greatly appreciates the unified team effort made by all the investigating agencies and organizations to ensure justice in this matter,” said Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux. “Through inspections, licensing, awareness and education, the Department of Agricultural Resources remains committed to protecting the health and safety of domestic animals across the Commonwealth.”
In July 2016, Westport Police received a 911call directing them to Medeiros’ property at 465 American Legion Highway. Police discovered that two starved Rottweilers from one of the lots had escaped and broken into another lot where they had attacked and consumed a number of goats.
Authorities allege that approximately 1,400 animals were found in overcrowded, overheated and dangerous living conditions at the farm. In some cases, they were living in such deep manure waste that their hooves had rotted off and they were suffering from painful eye, intestinal and skin ailments. Among those animals were a variety of species found on separate lots, including dogs, cats, cows, horses, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, and rabbits. It is alleged that animals did not have proper water sources or adequate food, were improperly sheltered, and housed among dangerous debris and other dead animals. Authorities also allege that many animals were suffering from a number of contagious diseases.
The following individuals were indicted Thursday by a Statewide Grand Jury on the animal cruelty charges:
- Richard Medeiros, 83, of Westport (21 counts)
- Eduardo Caetano, 51 of Fall River (4 counts),
- Messias P. Farias, 74 of Fall River (1 count),
- Luis Machado, 56 of New Bedford (8 counts),
- Eddy DeAguiar, 37 of Fall River (10 counts),
- Joao Aguiar, 73 of Fall River (10 counts),
- Octavio Botelho, 51 of Fall River (6 counts),
- Luis Pacheco, 57 of Fall River (3 counts),
- Emmanuel DeSousa, 47 of Fall River (4 counts),
- Diana Magalhaes, 46 of Fall River, (4 counts),
- Bruno Magalhaes, 32 of Fall River (4 counts),
- Jose Botelho, 64 of Fall River (11 counts),
- Joseph Rego, 40 of Fall River (4 counts),
- Jeffrey Brilhante, 36 of Fall River (9 counts),
- Jose Aguiar, 66 of Fall River (9 counts),
- Antonio Dias, 64 of Fall River (5 counts),
- Eduardo Vultao, 51 of Dighton (4 counts),
- John Melo, 45 of Fall River (5 counts),
- Arthur Arruda, 53 of New Bedford (5 counts),
- Rhonda Gadomski, 50 of Fall River (3 counts),
- Kenneth Bellevance Jr., 44 of Westport (3 counts),
- Scottie Medeiros, 31 of Fall River (1 count),
- Timothy Cabral, 32 of Fall River (4 counts),
- Jose Reis, 58 of Fall River (3 counts),
- Antonio Medeiros, 42 of Tiverton (1 count),
- Donald Rapoza, 61 of New Bedford (8 counts), and
- Emanuel Gaspar, 55 of Fall River (1 count).
The defendants are expected to be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court at a future date.
These charges are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Tasnin Chowdhury, Chief of AG Healey’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force, Assistant Attorney General Patrick Hanley, Assistant Attorney General Kristyn Dusel, and Assistant Attorney General Jessica Frattaroli, with assistance from Victim Witness Advocate Amber Anderson, Financial Investigator Kathrine Metoyer, and Administrative Assistant Andrea Leone. This case was investigated by Detective Jeff Majewski and the Westport Police Department, with assistance from Detectives from the Massachusetts Environmental Police, the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Animal Rescue League of Boston.