Romanian princess, Oregon husband arrested in bust of suspected two-state cockfighting ring
John Wesley Walker and Irina Walker, the third daughter of Romania's King Michael I, staged at least 10 cockfighting derbies at their ranch near Irrigon between April 1, 2012, and last May 19, government prosecutors allege.
The accused cockfight hosts, with a supporting cast of 16 other suspects in Oregon and at least 10 in Washington, were charged in a conspiracy to violate the federal Animal Welfare Act.
The indictment alleges that the derbies featured dozens of cockfights in a ring, much like a fight card in a night of boxing. But the combatants were roosters, each with knives, gaffs or other cutting instruments attached to their legs, fighting to their deaths in a blood sport now outlawed in all 50 states.
A referee supervised the fights as concessionaires sold beer and food, and those managing the action took a 10 percent "house" cut, prosecutors allege.
John and Irina Walker -- along with Irrigon neighbors David Sanchez, 29, and Aurelia Garcia Mendoza, 33, and Hermiston friends Mario "El Cuba" Perez, 62, and Jose Luis Virgen Ramirez, 48 -- were charged with operating an illegal gambling business and unlawful animal fighting ventures at the Walkers' Morrow County ranch.
Each of the charges carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Federal agents searched homes and arrested people accused of participating in the cockfighting in eastern Oregon and Yakima, Wash. Some of those rounded up in Oregon are scheduled for arraignment before a federal magistrate in Portland's U.S. District Court on Friday.
Ten other suspects, all men, were arrested in Washington's Yakima Valley, about 68 miles northwest of Irrigon. They will appear before a magistrate in the William O. Douglas U.S. Courthouse in Yakima.
The busts come five years after a massive federal crackdown on cockfighting in the Pacific Northwest. The government accused 63 people of taking part in staging a dozen cockfight derbies that began in Molalla in March 2006 and stretched to Grand Ronde, Warm Springs, Woodburn and Sunny Valley in Oregon and up into the Washington towns of Wapato, Sunnyside and Prosser.
Top purses in the earlier cockfighting case sometimes reached into the tens of thousands of dollars, authorities said.
The government alleges that the Walkers' horse ranch, on a flat patch of irrigation circles about two miles south of Irrigon, is subject to federal forfeiture because it was used in a criminal enterprise. The ranch's dwellings were valued at $170,360 in 2011, according to public records.
John Walker, 67, served as a sergeant in the Myrtle Point Police Department before going to work on Aug. 1, 1998, with the Coos County Sheriff's Office. He left that job in June 30, 2003, according to the county's Department of Human Resources. It's unclear what kind of work Walker might have performed in the last 10 years.
Walker in 2007 married the former Irina Kreuger, the middle of five daughters born to King Michael I and Queen Anne of Romania. A published account says the Walkers married in the Heart of Reno Chapel, in Reno, Nev.
Princess Irina, 60, is fifth in line to the throne, following her older sisters, Margareta and Elena, and Elena's two children, Nicholas and Elisabeta Karina. She was born and raised in Switzerland and moved to Oregon in 1983.
Irina Walker has never been a visible member of the royal family, which owns four castles in Romania. She has visited the European nation only a handful of times, said historian Filip-Lucian Iorga. Her biography is largely unknown to the Romanian public, he said. The royal family is popular, but largely uninvolved in local politics.
In 1944, King Michael led a coup against a pro-Nazi government. His family lived in exile for more than four decades after the country fell under communism after World War II. The king was forced to abdicate in 1947 by communists threatening to kill more than 1,000 young Romanian prisoners. The king and queen have lived modestly in Switzerland and the United Kingdom, maintaining a chicken farm and a carpenter's shop.
-- Bryan Denson
-- Simina Mistreanu
-- Simina Mistreanu