Fair Oaks Farm

Three former employees at Fair Oaks Farms face criminal charges in connection the abuse showed on the videos with one former employee already in custody.

{child_kicker}Encouraged by ARM?{/child_kicker}

Witness: Abuse was encouraged, coerced

NEWTON COUNTY — The ongoing investigation into the alleged animal abuse at Fair Oaks Farms that was made public by a series of videos released online has uncovered new information in regards to the actions of Animal Recovery Mission (ARM).

According to new information from Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Drinski, “A third party witness has come forward to corroborate the allegations made by a suspect that the ARM employee encouraged or coerced the behavior depicted in the portions of the video that have been released publicly. Detectives continue to investigate these claims through additional interviews and written discovery.”

Three former employees at Fair Oaks Farms face criminal charges in connection with the abuse showed on the videos, with one former employee already in custody.

Edgar Gardozo-Vasquez, 36, of Brook, was taken into custody June 12 by the Newton County Sheriff’s Office on a warrant for animal cruelty (Class A misdemeanor) and torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal (Level 6 Felony)

He is currently being held at the Newton County Jail and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has placed a hold on him.

There are still outstanding warrants for Santiago Ruvalcaba Contreros and Miguel Angel Navarro Serrano.

“This afternoon, I signed felony and misdemeanor charges, asking for arrest warrants for three former employees of Fair Oaks Farms,” Drinski said last week. “During this investigation, Fair Oaks Farms has cooperated completely in our attempts to identify and interview all persons involved in the videos that we have all viewed over the past week.

“Although these three individuals are being charged, the investigation will continue. The video footage is being translated and further interviews will be conducted to determine if allegations of complicity by the planted employee or others are in fact true. As always, criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty.”

According to the probable cause affidavits, the Newton County Sheriff’s Office received a white binder on or about June 4 labeled “Operation Fair Oaks Farms Dairy Adventure,” an Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) undercover investigation. The binder was received by the office in the mail.

The binder contained a summary of the investigation provided by ARM, an advertised independent non-profit organization established in 2010. The binder also contained information of the investigation indexed by a summary, location information, report recipients, references, crime-violations and employees.

An external hard drive, which contained video/audio footage of work performed on site of Fair Oaks Farm (5431 E. CR 600 North, Fair Oaks), was included in the binder.

According to the affidavits, video footage represented on the hard drive depicted a Spanish-speaking male who captured audio/video footage of the day-to-day operations at Fair Oaks Farms.

“Throughout the course of the footage, there are several incidents of calves being pushed, thrown, slapped, kicked and pushed to the ground in and outside of the calves huts,” reported Detective Mike Rowe in the affidavit. “During the course of feeding, the calves were reluctant to feed and it appeared this caused the employees to become frustrated (and that led to the employees) striking the calves in the mouth with the plastic feeding bottles.”

Rowe stated that he met with the management staff at Fair Oaks Farms Site 1 on June 5.

“During the course of the interview, I requested employee application files to identify the employees involved in the video. Using the still photos provided in the ARM binder, I requested the management staff to identify those employees.”

The investigation comes after the initial video was released by ARM after a several-month undercover investigation at one of the farms that make up Fair Oaks Farms.

Three of the employees on the video had already been fired prior to the video being released and one employee was fired afterward according to Fair Oaks Farms founder Mike McCloskey.

The video and ARM’s report claims that they sent an investigator to work at Fair Oaks Farms from August to November 2018 as a calf care employee and the video depicts employees kicking and body slamming calves, throwing them off the side of trucks, beating them with steel bars and leaving them to die in extreme temperatures or without proper nutrition and medical care.

After the release of the video, McCloskey released several statements and video taking full responsibility for his company and that he plans on installing video cameras throughout the farm. He said he also plans to hire an animal welfare specialist to periodically visit the farm to ensure “this activity never happens again.”

ARM’s founder, Richard Cuoto, denies that his investigator had any part in staging the abuse and said ARM delayed reporting the abuse so its embedded investigator could show calves from Fair Oaks Farms being loaded onto a truck and taken to a veal processing plant.

A day after the first video was released, Jewel-Osco and several other retailers began pulling Fairlife milk and other products from Fair Oaks Farms from their shelves.