The Miami-Dade Police Department, State Attorney, and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service have managed to get on the inside of the lucrative black market for horse meat for human consumption that has long played out in the shadows of South Florida’s backroads.
A raid Friday carried out by the Miami Date police succeeded in the arrest of Manuel Coto-Martinez, 70. Before the raid, an undercover detective purchased 20 pounds of horse meat from Coto-Martinez for $140 on Nov. 10. The detective told Coto-Martinez his anemic child was badly in need of horse meat, which is often sold to cure ailments and prevent diseases.
Once purchased, the horse meat was turned over to FSIS for testing to confirm it was equine, clearing the way for Maine-Dade police to obtain warrants for the raid.
“The collaboration between my office, MDPD and the USDA has been essential in the first successful infiltration at this level, into the extremely close-knit and secretive world of an illegal horse meat operation in Miami-Dade County,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in a statement released over rhe weekend. “This unregulated slaughter of horses and uninspected meat presents a real safety and food security issue that puts lives in jeopardy and our agricultural community at risk.”
Authorities also acknowledge a confidential informant point them toward the Coto-Martinez ranch as one of two properties where horse meat was being sold.
It been several years since USDA provided any inspection services for horse slaughter in the U.S. Congress does not provide any budget authority for USDA to engage in equine inspections, and legitimate businesses have given up asking from grants of inspection for horse slaughter since USDA lacks the authority.
Horse slaughter never really goes away in Dade County. Mostly recently in July, the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals showed authorities where horses were being butchered on a rural road, with unwanted body parts scattered about.
Coto-Martinez faces multiple felony counts with potential prison time of 5 years for each conviction.