The Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) is an investigative animal welfare organization stationed in Miami Beach, Florida. In the past, this group has collaborated with local law enforcement officials and environmental protection agencies to put an end to criminal acts against animals. For example, in August 2018, an ARM investigation helped police raid a farm in Sunrise where dozens of animals were being neglected and abused. However, the organization’s aggressive tactics have recently put them at odds with the law enforcement officials stationed in Miami-Dade.
A few months ago, ARM surrounded a property in Southwest Miami-Dade that was hosting an illegal cockfighting ring. The group’s founder, Richard Cuoto, had an undercover investigator record three illegal competitions before deciding to take unlawful action. Cuoto never notified the police about the investigation until ARM already had the building completely surrounded. When Miami-Dade police officers arrived, the suspects quickly fled the scene while TV cameras filmed Cuoto cursing the cops for allowing “one of the worst animal fighting operations in the United States” to scatter. Afrer the police officers failed to make a single arrest, Cuoto declared, “Our demands are this: For people on this property to be arrested on felony charges, to have every single animal on this property be seized, rescued and be brought to ARM sanctuary. We are not asking for this. We are demanding it now!”
On November 14, 2018, the Miami Herald posted an article with updated information about this case. Summarily, prosecutors decided not to file charges against anyone implicated in the case. In response to ARM’s outrage, Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Michael Filteau harshly criticized the group for refusing to work with local law enforcement, tampering with evidence, and treating suspects with force and violence. In a memo, Filteau states, “I believe that filing such charges would tend to encourage ARM…to conduct future undercover investigations without appropriate supervision and support from law enforcement agencies and thus engage in behavior that is both extremely unsafe and potentially illegal.”
When the Miami Herald interviewed Cuoto, the ARM founder claimed that “there is very little difference between ARM investigators and, let’s say, an undercover narcotics unit with the Miami-Dade police department.” He also claimed that prosecutors and cops aren’t following up on ARM’s investigations because they don’t want to deal with the extra work. Cuoto added, “I’m doubling investigations in Miami-Dade County.”
Unfortunately, ARM’s militant tactics aren’t endorsed by law enforcement groups and can even be considered entrapment. By choosing which laws they can follow, the group is unintentionally undermining their ultimate goals and aggravating countless government agencies in the process.
In 2014, ARM investigators filmed undercover videos that showed pigs being horrifically abused by Yonisley Garcia. However, Mami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy couldn’t hold the offender accountable because ARM investigators broke the law by filming Garcia without his permission. According to the Third District Court of Appeals, Garcia would have faced significant legal consequences if the evidence had been properly and lawfully presented in court.
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