Two men accused of operating a Lake Elsinore breeding facility where rodents and reptiles were allegedly starved, tortured and killed could spend decades behind bars.
Mitchell Steven Behm, 54, is charged with 106 counts of animal cruelty and could be sentenced to probation or up to 73 years in prison if convicted, Riverside County prosecutors said Monday.
His co-defendant, David Delgado, 29, was charged with the same 106 counts, along with 11 more counts for allegedly taking a personal hand in torturing or killing rodents. His sentence could range from probation to 80 years and four months in prison.
The men were arrested last week after a two-month undercover sting by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals revealed the conditions at Global Captive Breeders.
Behm owns Global Captive Breeders and was arrested Friday at his home in Orange County; he was freed on bail Saturday.
Delgado, who worked as a manager, was arrested at his Rialto home Friday and remains in custody in lieu of $50,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Riverside County.
According to prosecutors, a member of PETA who worked at the facility for two months witnessed the conditions firsthand and notified authorities. The Lake Elsinore facility was raided in December.
“It’s too late for the animals who were bludgeoned, drowned, and starved to death at Global Captive Breeders, but two people must now answer for the sea of suffering,” said PETA’s vice president of cruelty investigations, Daphna Nachminovitch, in a statement.
The snakes were so emaciated that their ribs bulged out. Tubs and freezers inside were filled with carcasses, according to investigators. In a statement after authorities raided the facility in December, PETA said workers there shot at animals with BB guns, froze some alive and bludgeoned animals they wanted to kill.
The conditions were so “toxic” inside that the animals found alive had to be euthanized, officials said. More than 15,000 rodents and 500 reptiles were found dead or had to be euthanized, prosecutors said.