Westport farm owner, tenants indicted on animal cruelty charges

Authorities told NBC 10 News they discovered hundreds of animals in "awful" conditions at a 75-acre property off 465 American Legion Highway in Westport on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (Police photo)

The Massachusetts attorney general said Friday that 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.

In a news release, Attorney General Maura Healey said the charges are the result of the largest investigation of its kind in New England.

The news release said 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, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

The attorney general's office had no comment on potential charges for town officials, citing an ongoing investigation.

The investigation began in July when Westport police were called about allegations of animal cruelty at a 70-acre farm at 465 American Legion Highway owned by 83-year-old Richard Medeiros and rented out to multiple tenants. He’s facing 21 counts of animal cruelty.

Authorities said about 1,400 animals were found in overcrowded, overheated and dangerous living conditions at the farm. Some were injured and sick.

“It's not your typical crime where there was one crime scene, one suspect,” Detective Jeff Majewski of the Westport Police Department said. “You're talking about 23 different crime scenes, 26, 27 different suspects, and then 1,400 pieces of evidence.”

Authorities also said some animals were in such deep manure that their hooves had rotted off. Others had painful ailments or a lack of food or water.

"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.

Animal activists have been seeking justice.

“It really caused me to sort of go back and relive a lot of this horrible reality,” Jodi Greenleaf said in response to the charges, while Roxanne Houghton, added, “If I did that or you did that, we'd be in jail.”

Charges were brought against:

  • 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)
  • Emanuel Gaspar, 55, of Fall River (1 count)

"The Town will continue to support the Attorney General's effort to hold accountable those individuals responsible for alleged animal neglect and abuse," Westport Select Board Chairman R. Michael Sullivan said in a statement.

Medeiros faced similar accusations in 2010.

NBC 10 visited his Westport home to see if he had a response to the new charges, but people inside did not answer the door.

Most of the 26 tenants facing charges live in Fall River. NBC 10 tried to find some of them, too, but again, no one answered.

The defendants will face arraignment in Bristol Superior Court.

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