By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
A camcorder lens zooms in on a patch of tall, dry grass and palm trees in a bushy field and finds a pair of discarded nylon bags used for animal feed. Flies swarm the camera. A rooster crows in the distance. "Shit, there's maggots!" a man's voice says off-camera. A hand picks up one of the bags and empties the contents. "It is the head of an animal," the voice says, "actually the head of a goat." The hand grabs the goat's dome by one of the horns. Pulpy red flesh dangles from the neck. The hand places the head next to a mass of grayish-brown fur. "And that's his coat." The camera jerks in a semicircle to capture the image of the second bag.
"I don't know what the fuck is in here," the crack documentarian says. "But we're gonna find out." He flips the bag over. Mushy purple and gray entrails spill onto the ground. The filmmaker gags and recoils. "Oh my God," he says. "Fucking disgusting! This is what our wetlands has basically come to."
The man holding the video recorder is Richard "Kudo" Couto, a self-styled avenging angel for the C-9 Basin, a no-man's land in the northwestern fringes of Miami-Dade County. Although the basin lies just 12 miles from Hialeah, it resembles the backdrop for a Latin American version of Apocalypse Now.
To get there, travel west of Florida's Turnpike and pull off the safely paved confines of six-lane Okeechobee Road and onto two-lane streets. Farther into the heart of the basin, gravel roads turn to dirt ones with deep potholes. This is terrain best traveled on horseback, in mule-driven buggies, or Mack trucks. With suspicious glares, locals greet visitors.
Just about everything here is outside the law — fighting cocks, slaughtering horses, dumping hazardous waste. From the ramshackle houses built without permits, to the power pilfered from electrical lines, to the booze that flows freely in illegal saloons — the C-9 Basin is perhaps the closest thing in America to a Wild West outpost.
For 30 years, the C-9 dwellers — nearly all of them men — lived under their own set of rules, building a community of fewer than 10,000 that resembles the Third-World rural countrysides they left behind in Cuba, Haiti, and Central America. No one messed with their lifestyle until Couto — a bald Anglo with a soft spot for hogs and horses — huffed onto their terrain 18 months ago, determined to bring an end to the lawlessness.
This past winter, Couto spurred the government into action. On January 17, officials from 15 county, state, and federal regulatory, code, and law enforcement agencies descended on the basin. Over four days, the magnitude of the illegalities came into focus.
The county's building and neighborhood compliance office condemned more than 400 structures and issued more than 200 code violations. The state health department identified more than 100 health hazards on dozens of ranches. The county's environmental resources department issued another 100-plus violations for illegal dumping and operation of illegal slaughterhouses. In addition, officials broke up 17 cockfighting rings, shut down six ranches for operating as unlicensed restaurants, gave five ranchers notices to appear in court for criminal misdemeanors, arrested two people, and ordered six others to appear in court for animal cruelty.
Couto's vigilante activism has made him an enemy to outlaws and the law. He has brought the heat down on the offenders and publicly criticized law enforcement's indifference to policing the C-9, which has been largely ignored for more than a quarter-century.
"I knew that, because of politics and corruption, it would take somebody outside of a government agency to do something about the C-9 Basin," Couto says. "I did what had to be done."
An aqua green Ford F-150 slowly bounces over the narrow, pock-marked limestone road leading to Luis Delgado's five-acre lot. Stray dogs and puppies, coats caked with ash-colored mud, dart around the truck as it rolls to a stop near a warped wooden gate with a homemade "No Trespassing" sign. Delgado steps out of the driver's side of the four-by-four, its rear bumper adorned with a blue Bush-Cheney '04 sticker.
Green Rolling Rock beer suspenders press against the roly-poly Republican's striped polo shirt. He wipes sweat from his brow on his mud-stained blue jeans.
The 78-year-old retired trucker — who purchased the land for $70,000 in 1985 — says he excavated a 1.2-acre lake and cleared the remaining 3.8 acres for his pigs and goats. Delgado leases some of the land to Guatemalan and Haitian immigrants who raise roosters inside tin-roofed wood shacks. "When I first came out here, my property was nothing more than a melaleuca jungle," Delgado says. "I made it livable."
Delgado limps over to an abandoned school bus that he turned into a trailer home, complete with a comfy twin mattress and an air-conditioning unit attached to one of the windows. "During the summer months, that AC unit came in handy," he says.
Delgado and his neighbors — many of them Cuban rancheros — began migrating to the basin in the early 1980s. Out here, land is cheap and plentiful, and with little government oversight, the basin's inhabitants could erect shacks, stables, and livestock pens. They could also operate in a black market, where the bartering of common items such as eggs and milk, as well as trading animals, is part of life.
I'm testing to see if my comments are being allowed. On the last newstory about Couto on which I tried to comment, my comments are being held for "moderation." They still haven't been put up while other comments have.
THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN A CRIMINAL, AND A POLICE OFFICER. YOU REALLY DO NOT KNOW THE FACTS IN THIS ARTICLE, ALL I KNOW THAT THEY DO VERY LITTLE WORK, SLEEP IN THE POLICE CARS, AND TAKE THE CARS HOME FOR THEIR PERSONAL USE. WHAT A WASTE OF TAX MONEY, AND THEY GET THESE FABULOUS PENSIONS, AFTER THEY TAKE ALL OF US FOR A RIDE. THEY ARE MAKING MONEY DOING NOTHING, AND GETTING GREAT COMPENSATION AT THE END. THERE IS NOTHING GLAMOROUS ABOUT POLICE WORK. LET US INVESTIGATE HOW THEY EARN THE MONEY EVERY DAY, VISITING MC DONALDS, POLLO TROPICAL, DUNKIN DONUTS, DENNYS, AND OTHER RESTAURANTS ON OUR DIME. YOU ONLY HAVE TO LOOK AT THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY MAYOR FOR YOUR ANSWER. WE ARE ALL POOR, AND THEY CONTINUE TO MAKE ALL THE MONEY THEY WANT. LET THEM BUY THEIR OWN CARS AND PLACE THE POLICE CARS IN THE POLICE STATION, THAT IS WERE THEY BELONG. LET STOP WASTING TAX PAYERS MONEY, DAY IN AND DAY OUT. WE CAN USE THE SAVINGS FOR OTHER PROJECTS IN THE COMMUNITY, LIKE CHILD CARE, AND HELP FOR THE AT RISK FAMILIES.
Wajira. May I remind you that the sole reason you're in this country is because you didn't have the freedom to express yourself in your own country, nor the balls to fight those that didn't allow you to do so. Even there, killing animals illegally was prosecuted to the fully extend of the law. I know that because I came from the same place. We (Cubans) are used to break the law, and cry foul when the law catches with us. The only time we follow the law is when it is to our convenience. You say farmers have families to feed; I agree with you on that. Cultivating the land can be a good start; killing animals is not an option. If you feel like eating horse meat, man up and suck it in; because it is ILLEGAL. If you feel like killing animals for religion purposes, too bad. I seriously doubt SANTOS need animal blood, more likely they need you to be a better human being. You could be remembered as an "anal cavity" or a good person. Your choice. The comment about Kudo, he's got more balls than you would ever have in three lifetimes. Fighting for what its right, takes more balls than agreeing with what is wrong...
@richard So you mean to say that people doing illegal things to animals is bad, but when people like couto do illegal things and risk human lives its not bad?
He's trespassing, stealing, engaging in hate crimes and all while being armed and has said he would shoot at someone even if he is on THEIR LAND trespassing... Here let me go visit you in your house and shoot you in the face cause I dont like how you got your chicken...
Seems legit right?
Mr. Couto, you are a hero. I believe it our responsibility to make ourselves aware of the plight of tormented animals, however disturbing the knowledge. Not only have you risked your life to battle the substrata of humanity, you have brought to public awareness the outrages committed against noble equines and other innocent animals in the C9 basin. I am absolutely awed by your perseverance and bravery. I cannot express how deeply grateful I am to you for your gallantry, your extreme daring and above all, your kindness. Linda Leamon
SO SOME OF THE GREASE BALL'S FROM GOOD OL CUBA, WANT TO LIVE ABOVE THE LAW OF THE LAND THEY (LIKE ALL THE REST OF THE CHICKENCUBAN'S) RAN TO WHEN CASTRO STARTED SAHOOTING THEIR ASS'S. THEY DID'NT HAVE THE BALL'S TO STAY AND FIGHT BUT RAN LIKE THE COWARD'STHEY ARE.NOW THEY WANT TO TELL AMERICAN'S TO FUCK OFF, THEY WANT TO LIVE JUST LIKE THEY DID IN OL CUBA. I SAY BURN THE WHOLE DAM AREA DOWN, TAKE THEIR STINKING CUBAN ASSES TO KEY WEST PUT EM ON A LEAKING RAFT AND AIM THEM BACK TO CUBA!!!TO THE ASS HOLE'S WHO SEEM TO THINK IT'S O.K TO STARVE AND SLAUGHTER HORSE'S, TO POLUTE THE AREA, SHOOT AT THE WILD LIFE,GENERALY TRASH THE AREA, BUT A GUY WHO IS TRYING TO CLEAN IT UP IS BREAKING THE LAW.YOU ARE AS BIG A RETARD AS SARA PALIN.!!!!!1THE CORRUPT GREASE BALL POLITICIAN'S (FROM CUBA)WHO RUN MIAMIRUN IT THE SAME WAY THEY DID IN CUBA..MIAMI IS ONE OF THE MOST CORRUPT CITIES IN THE U.S.A.(IF YOU WANT TO SAY MIAMI IS STILL AN AMERICAN CITY(IT'S A THIRD WOURLD SEWER TO MOST)THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE LET THE FIRST ONE IN THE COUNTRY.CLOSE THEM DOWN,FLUSH THEM DOWN A TOILET.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THE NEW TIMES IS NOTHING MORE THAN 'FISH WRAP'.
IF YOU WANT TO FIND A PAIN CLINIC OR AN EXOTIC MASSAGE, THATS ABOUT ALL YOUR 'WANNA BE' PAPER IS GOOD FOR.PRINT ONE LESS COPY, I AM FINISHED !
Great article- Kudos to Kudo! Exposing the lawlessness perputrated by our local officials requies men like this and accurate reporting like this. Thanks!
I use to work in the basin..the cries we would here from animals in and aroud thE place still keeps me up at night. I'm shocked the HSU or ASPCA and PETA never did the work this guy did to shut the places down mabe they didnt have the *#+"s this kudo has. How the hell;;by the way;; is anone putting this guys actions down? We use to here dog fights and the loser crying for hours (as i'm sure richard did) DONT ANYONE FEEL SORRY FOR THE "NICE OLD FARMERS"
Great, he's breaking onto the old fart's farms with a gun. Real tough guy. This article might just do the Preppie Rambo in.
To Wajira....Your a moron!!!! U, i'm sure bought your santeria animals from these farms (Bought,,thanks to Couto) Couto, Miami needs a million of you!!Thank you for doing what no one else would do. The animals of Miami Dade County thank you!!!!!!!
Wow! i just finished reading this article. I'm glad you report and put out there what most news stations don't. This guy Coutois a vigilante wanna be. Couto is trespassing thru the farmers homes/farms knowing he can be SHOT, and admits to carrying his own weapon "with the safety off". WOW! How did this guy get his gun permit? Because to my understanding you cannot go out looking for trouble. I hope one of them farmers catches one right in his ass. I'm sure these farmers didn't miss by accident. He says in the article that he is scared the farmers may come after his family? Maybe then he'll learn to stay out of peoples business and homes where they earn their money to eat and live. The farmers have families too and I'm sure they don't feel safe with this white guy running around either. He's going around snooping and sneaking around and stealing documents, this man is nothing! He is not an inspector, and he is not part of the SPCA. So my question is why hasn't anything been done about him? He's the one breaking laws. The farmers have real inspectors who check their livestock and if they violate any they get fined. I say the farmers should get together and file a restraining order against him and keep him off their lands.
To the bald avenger and any pro bald avengers I too say, "Me cago en tu madre"
In response to Karina, your heart is in the right place but you make the mistake of criticizing a "citizen activist" like Richard Couto who saw extreme animal abuse and, at personal risk, did something about it. That's not hypocrisy as you imply. It's doing what you can, when you can, where you can and making a difference. How do you know that Mr. Couto isn't just as appalled by the cruelties of big agribusiness as you and I are? As to Mr. Couto's dietary preferences? Come on. Look at the picture of him. Does he look like someone who frequents MickeyDs? I actually do know a number of real "family farmers" and have observed first-hand their treatment of their animals. They don't make pets of them, but the animals are properly tended to and well-cared for, unlike the pitiful creatures in the C9 Basin. I've seen them first-hand too and the difference is absolutely stunning.
SO what's the big deal. I don't understand what you people are so upset about. I mean poor Oreo had it rough but is that any different than USDA approved slaughterhouses that pigs are hung upside down and they watch others die before their throats are slashed? Atleast on these farms they probably arent locked in tiny stalls ontop of each other or eaten alive by other pigs. The egglaying chickens had it much better than USDA approved egglayers that are kept in such small cages they cant even stand up and when they die they are left for the others to eat. Mercy for animals had an undercover video at popular turkey farm showing a live turkey fist f*cked and then its head bitten off but USDA did nothing because it isnt against their rules. Please people Cuoto is probably drinking his milk or running to MickyDs right now. Why are all of you so upset with these people?? If you eat meat or drink milk or eat eggs then you are supporting much worse
Thanks Kudo for doing what law enforcement and other local government agencies don't seem to want to do. Its time these criminals realize that this isn't Cuba, or Haiti, or Colombia, etc..., in this country we have laws against this kind of criminal behavior, and they should be made to pay the price if they don't want to follow it. Or they can go back to their country and take their barbaric customs back with them.
This state along with many others are going down the tubes, so so sad. The problem is that is "all within" is all about politics, power and $money$.Way to go, and KUDOS to you Richard (KUDO). We need many more like you.
I commend Kudo for what he has done. He is a brave and incredible man to take on a task as great as that and on his own, with no one supporting his efforts. The animals are very lucky to have this "Angel" looking out for them. As for being a media whore, I don't believe he qualifies for such a distinction. He did not go tho the media. He tried getting the authorities to care and get involved. When that did not happen, he went above the local authorities to get it done. Had the authorities, who were supposed to uphold the law, been doing their job, there would be no need for him to be there risking his life. We need more Kudo's in this world!!!
Listen up people:After reading this article it seems as though this guy Kudo went through all the proper channels (first) and brought his info to all the rite county and state agencies. Then they slammed the door in his face, after that the gloves come off in my eyes. I think we all know the only way to pressure agencies into doing what they don’t want to do is to bring the media in. The people calling this guy a media whore are jealous. The attention is on him because he’s the one person that’s done anything about illegal slaughter in this county. I also am sure Kudo knows once the attention (cameras) is off this it wont be good for the animals. I know the c9 and also know that illegal slaughter has been going on forever here in Miami. These animals are brutalized. This is the first time in my 55 years in Miami that anything has been done in to end this…..It’s all do to Kudo. Without him animals would be brutalized in these areas for another 30 years. All the people criticizing him are one of a few things: 1. Law Enforcement or some kind of Enforcement in Miami 2.Slaughterers themselves or people profiting from them 3. People that have known about what has been going on here and that have done nothing about (shame on you..including me) or wish they had the grit to do it them selves BUT NEVER DID. Should kudo be arrested (4 trespassing on illegal operations to help animals, please) or investigating an illegal industry that no one else would? Please, he should be given an award.
C9 Family Farm Alliance? Family Farms? Oh, good grief. Surely you jest. Even I'm having bucolic visions of country roads, green pastures, white picket fences, healthy farm animals cared for by hard-working, law-abiding families making an honest living. Pulleeze! The so-called C9 Family Farms are nothing more than bloody, filthy abattoirs operating illegally in environmentally sensitive areas, leaking blood, offal and feces into our water supply. You know - the stuff we drink. And how 'bout those big rig trucks illegally parked in the C9 Basin, leaking bad-ass stuff into - once again - OUR drinking water. And that's just for starters. The place is animal hell. Filthy, sick, underfed animals kept in tiny cages or wandering around dazed until they are dispatched in the cruelest way imaginable. And shoppers - here's a C9 Basin shopping tip. Caveat emptor. These pitiful critters are slaughtered with no thought to health or hygiene. Goats, cows, pigs and, yes, even horses. Then there are the dog fighting and cock fighting operations with animals tearing each other apart for the enjoyment of drunken revelers illegally gambling on the outcome. (Timmy, quick, lock up Lassie. Here come the "family farmers.") I guess we're supposed to believe that this is good, old-fashioned Saturday night fun at the "family farm." You can't be serious. Family farms? Try illegal shanties and lean-to's stealing electricity - electricity that the rest of us probably pay for - not to mention contamination of our fragile eco-system, illegal gambling and horrible abuse of animals. Need I continue? "Old MacDonald Had A Farm" and he is turning in his grave. As far as anyone "planting" evidence, until it was razed, you couldn't walk five steps in the C9 without tripping over "evidence." You go, Kudo. Thank you for bringing this festering sore to the attention of the media and the public. And thank you to all the government agencies, starting with the State's Attorney's office, Miami-Dade Police, DERM and the Florida Dept of Agriculture for cleaning out this area. The "real" family farmers appreciate it.
C9 Family Farm Alliance? Family farms? Oh, good grief. Surely you jest. Even I’m having bucolic visions of country roads, lush green pastures, white picket fences, healthy farm animals grazing, being cared for by hard-working, law-abiding families making an honest living. Pulleeze. The C9 Basin “family farms” are nothing more than bloody, filthy abattoirs operating illegally in environmentally sensitive areas, leaking bloody offal, improperly disposed of carcasses and feces into our water supply. That’s our water that’s being contaminated, folks. You know – the stuff we drink. And how ‘bout those big rig trucks illegally parked in the C9 Basin, leaking bad-ass stuff into – once again – our drinking water. And that’s just for starters. This place is animal hell. Filthy, sick, underfed animals either kept in way too small cages or wandering around dazed until they are dispatched in the cruelest way imaginable. And shoppers – here’s a C9 Basin shopping tip. Caveat emptor. These pitiful critters are slaughtered with no thought to health or hygiene in the process. Goats, cows, pigs and, yes, even horses. Then there are the dog fighting and cockfighting operations with animals tearing each other apart for the enjoyment of spectators illegally gambling on the outcome. (Timmy, quick, lock up Lassie! Here come the “family farmers!”). I guess we’re supposed to believe that this is good, old-fashioned Saturday night fun at the “family farm.” You can’t be serious. Family farms? Try illegal shanties stealing electricity – electricity that the rest of us probably have to pay for by the way – not to mention contaminating our fragile environment, illegal gambling and horrible abuse of animals. Need I continue? “Ole MacDonald Had A Farm” and he is turning in his grave. As far as Kudo “planting” evidence, until it was razed, you couldn’t walk five steps in the C9 Basin without tripping over “evidence.” You go, Kudo. Thank you for bringing this festering sore to the attention of the public and the media. And thank you to all the government agencies, starting with the State’s Attorney’s office, Miami-Dade Police, DERM, and Florida Dept of Agriculture for cleaning out this area. The “real” family farmers appreciate it.
Personally, I love horses. Reading this article makes me laugh. Not at the slaughtering, but rather at the semi-retarded media whore that "Kudo" is. I think that all of his supporters ought to stop and wonder "Does this guy care about the horses or his media coverage?" Hrmm...
Thank you Kudo. God bless you. You don't mention dog fighting, did you come across that as well? What about horse tripping?Bestiality goes along with all that sickness. This is what happens when anti-animal cruelty laws are too weak and not enforced. This country needs to understand that those who abuse animals are also abusing people and engaged in other criminal activities. Even if law enforcement doesn't consider animal protection as a top priority, it must realize that crime against animals is related to many other criminal activities.Thank you again Kudo and be safe.
First of all it takes not only guts,but A LOT of courage to do something as good and as great as what Kudo is doing. No body has risk their life in this way for the sake of this forgotten animals. These animals (not only horses) have been slaughtered,burnt and beaten alive (did u even know that)!!!I think those who don't share the same opinion and who wrote the negative comments are ignorant,or law enforcement corrupt people who are affected by the closure of this lucrative business,or people who just dont care about animals at all who knows, they even might be related to these delinquents committing such atrocities. Have you even read anything about the ARM organization to say such negative things?? Sometimes taking the law into your own hands is something you have to do to, instead of sitting around waiting for someone to do something,(obviously nobody and nothing has been done for over 30 years!)Breaking the law in order to do the right thing and for a good cause(in this case saving animals)should not be something to be punished for;or wouldn't you agree that saving animals from being tortured is doing the right thing???
Are you married? If your not, wanna get married? You are awesome! I am the same way when it comes to animals. You have to fight extremism with extremism. Screw those third world bastards.
Kudo is not a Yuppie Rambo. He's a trailblazer larceny driven persona. He acts with impunity: impersonates a Law Enforcement officer which is a illegal, engages in illegal trespassing, conducts illegal search and seizures, engages in property theft, and C9 Family Farm Alliance suspects him of planting evidence. And wearing his firearm on his chest is legally questionable. Why hasn't the State Attorney pressed charges and arrested Mr. Kudo? It's time to investigate this so-called investigator!! In fact, he impersonated himself as investigator using A.R.M. during the January raids and police allowed him to participate without any legal auth newly formed Not-For-Profit [A.R.M.]
If you break the law, to catch others "breaking the law, you are just as guilty. Furthermore, you must educate yourself properly on whom you are targeting because your personal opinion does not constitute illegal transaction. Quite honestly you should be arrested for trespassing. You are not a law enforcement officer and should govern yourself accordingly. I suggest all the farms being targeted by this man should file a restraining order against him for harassment, stalking, trespassing and get legal advice to the other many rights and laws he is violating. Two wrongs don't make a right, that is why we live in a country with a legal system and a line of command. If you dont agree with the laws Mr. Cudo...vote and speak but do not over step your boundaries.
The work ARM is doing is brave! Sometimes it takes a character with an unusual amount of drive and initiative to take a stand against such a vast and widely overlooked problem. I saw on FB that there's a fundraiser for Kudo and ARM at Lime Midtown next Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. I know I'll be there to lend my support!
Kudo is a criminal and should be arrested. He treats the law with the same respect as those breaking it. No matter your reasoning he is wrong in his unlawful tactics. I see no difference between him or the rancheros.
Wow now he sounds like a pretty cool dude. Wow.
To Mr. "kudo" Couto, it usually takes a warrior to eliminate evil people from a society and since the people entrusted with getting the job done here are for the most part wimpy types then what else is left to do but take the burden upon yourself for the task!! Congratulations on your effective efforts to protect our animal friends from these human beasts.. Let me know if I can be of help to you in your marathon of justice for God's creatures.. firstname.lastname@example.org