The owner of a Massachusetts farm and the 26 tenants who rent space on the property have been indicted on multiple animal cruelty charges after authorities say they found more than 1,400 animals in various levels of distress, the state's attorney general announced Friday.
Attorney General Maura Healey said the investigation into the Westport farm resulting in these charges is the largest of its kind in New England.
Thursday's indictment returned more than 150 counts of animal cruelty by a grand jury.
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The investigation, which involved local and state law enforcement, animal advocacy groups and the state's agricultural department, started in July 2016 when Westport police were called to report animal cruelty allegations.
"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," Healey said in a statement.
The farm's owner, 83-year-old Richard Medeiros, was hit with the most indictments by the grand jury, with a total of 21 animal cruelty charges.
Twenty-six tenants who rented space on the property were also indicted on animal cruelty charges.
- Eduardo Caetano, 51, of Fall River, with four counts
- Messias P. Farias, 74, of Fall River, with one count
- Luis Machado, 56, of New Bedford, with eight counts
- Eddy DeAguiar, 37, of Fall River, with 10 counts
- Joao Aguiar, 73, of Fall River, with 10 counts
- Octavio Botelho, 51, of Fall River, with six counts
- Luis Pacheco, 57, of Fall River, with three counts
- Emmanuel DeSousa, 47, of Fall River, with four counts
- Diana Magalhaes, 46, of Fall River, with four counts
- Bruno Magalhaes, 32, of Fall River, with four counts
- Jose Botelho, 64, of Fall River, with 11 counts
- Joseph Rego, 40, of Fall River, with four counts
- Jeffrey Brilhante, 36, of Fall River, with nine counts
- Jose Aguiar, 66, of Fall River, with nine counts
- Antonio Dias, 64, of Fall River, with five counts
- Eduardo Vultao, 51, of Dighton, with four counts
- John Melo, 45, of Fall River, with five counts
- Arthur Arruda, 53, of New Bedford, with five counts
- Rhonda Gadomski, 50, of Fall River, with three counts
- Kenneth Bellevance Jr., 44, of Westport, with three counts
- Scottie Medeiros, 31, of Fall River, with one count
- Timothy Cabral, 32, of Fall River, with four counts
- Jose Reis, 58, of Fall River, with four counts
- Antonio Medeiros, 42, of Tiverton, with one count
- Donald Rapoza, 61, of New Bedford, with eight counts
- Emanuel Gaspar, 55, of Fall River, with one count
The accused are expected to be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court at a later date. It's unclear if any have an attorney.
Some residents said they are relieved that so many people are facing charges.
"I'm happy because we are moving forward," said Jodi Greenleaf, a member of the Protest Westport Tenant Farm group. "We have taken a step in the right direction. But really, it's the beginning of a very long haul."
"I want to see this treated like a felony," added Roxanne Houghton, another member of the group. "I don't want to see people get fines that mean nothing to people."