Princess on cockfight charge: Daughter of exiled Romanian king arrested over animal cruelty on her Oregon ranch

Blades were attached to birds' legs and paying spectators were then sold refreshments at the fights, claims federal indictment

A member of Romania's former royal family has appeared in a US court accused of operating an illegal cockfighting ring together with her husband, a former sheriff's deputy. Princess Irina Walker, 60, and her husband John Wesley Walker, 67, were among six people arrested over claims the couple staged cockfights and organised illegal gambling at their Oregon ranch. Twelve others from Oregon and Washington face lesser charges of conspiracy to violate the Animal Welfare Act through illegal animal fighting. Cockfights, in which the birds fight to the death, are banned in all US states.

Princess Irina is the third daughter of King Michael I, now 91, who was forced to abdicate the Romanian throne by Communists in 1947 and exiled. The couple, who married in 2007, run a chicken farm and a carpentry workshop. Mr Walker reportedly served as a sergeant in the Myrtle Point Police Department before joining the Coos County Sheriff's Office in 1998. He left that job in 2003.

Prosecutors claim the Walkers ran 10 cockfighting events in the north-western state in 2012 and this year. Blades were attached to birds' legs and paying spectators were then sold refreshments at the fights, the federal indictment said.

The events apparently featured numerous cockfights, much like a fight card on a boxing night, and allegedly raised $2,000 a day. A referee supervised the fights as concessionaires sold beer and food. Those managing the action took a 10 per cent "house" cut, prosecutors said.

The couple have been charged with operating an illegal gambling business and conspiracy to violate the Animal Welfare Act. If found guilty, they could face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Prosecutors now want to seize the couple's ranch, called Strokes Landing Sport Horses, in Irrigon, Morrow County. Both the former princess and former law enforcement officer have pleaded not guilty and been released on bail.

"Besides being barbaric, cockfighting jeopardises public health and safety and facilitates the commission of other criminal acts," said Amanda Marshall, US Attorney for the district of Oregon. She alleged that the "fairly large-scale cockfighting venture" also supported illegal gambling.

Alongside the Walkers, their neighbours David Sanchez, 29, and Aurelia Garcia Mendoza, 33, and Hermiston friends Mario "El Cuba" Perez, 62, and Jose Luis Virgin Ramirez, 48, were charged in connection with operating an illegal gambling business at the Walkers' ranch.

Ten of the suspects, all men, were arrested around 68 miles from Irrigon in Washington's Yakima Valley.

A statement on the Romanian royal family's website said the king had noted with "deep sorrow the events related to Princess Irina of Romania". It said King Michael I hoped the US justice system and courts would act quickly. According to local reports, Princess Irina, left, had returned to Romania only "a few times".

The cockfighting arrests follow a similar crackdown in the Pacific north-west. In 2006, the towns of Molalla, Grand Ronde, Warm Springs, Woodburn and Sunny Valley in Oregon and Wapto, Sunnyside and Prosser in Washington held a dozen cockfight derbies, which 63 people were accused of helping to stage.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games