PORTLAND, Ore. » Romanian princess Irina Walker pleaded guilty Wednesday to operating an illegal gambling business in connection with a cockfighting enterprise in rural Oregon.
Walker and her husband, John, accepted plea deals in which the government dismissed charges of animal fighting and conspiracy to violate the animal welfare act. Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 22. The government recommends a sentence of probation for both Walkers, along with the forfeiture of $200,000.
Irina Walker, 61, is the third daughter of former Romanian King Michael I, who was forced to abdicate by communists in 1947.
She admitted to U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman that she profited from a gambling venture in which roosters had knives attached to their legs and fought to the death.
"I provided food and beverage, your honor, and the location," she said. She declined to speak with reporters.
The Walkers were arrested last summer after authorities said they staged at least 10 cockfighting derbies in a barn at their ranch in Irrigon, 175 miles east of Portland and just south of Washington state.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer said the Walkers charged spectators $20 to enter and the crowds generally exceeded 100 people. The couple also made money from the sale of alcohol.
Irina Walker initially made food for the spectators, Peifer said. But when her dishes proved unpopular, John Walker brought on a woman to make crowd-pleasing tacos and burritos.
Peifer said the people who brought roosters to fight paid $1,000 to enter, and the pool ranged from $10,000 to $18,000. The person whose roosters won the most fights took home the money, except for the 10 percent takeout kept by the referees.
More than a dozen other people were indicted in the case. Charges against the woman who made the Mexican food were later dropped and two defendants remain fugitives: Ruben Saltos Godina, known as Chino; and Antonio Dominguez Robles, known as Tono.
Everyone else pleaded guilty, either in Oregon or Washington state.
Irina Walker moved to the U.S. from Switzerland in the early 1980s with her former-husband John Kreuger, her daughter, Angelica Kreuger, told the AP last year. Kreuger said her mother rode horses, gardened, studied the Bible and raised two children while living for many years in Coos County in southwest Oregon.
The princess later divorced her husband and married John Walker, a family friend and neighbor. The couple moved to sparsely populated Irrigon, living in a triple-wide manufactured home.
John Walker, 68, was a sheriff’s deputy in Coos County from 1998 to 2003. He told Judge Mosman that an experienced cockfighting referee, Mario Perez, came to him, seeking a place to hold derbies. The fights were first held outdoors until Walker put up a barn-like structure with a metal roof.
"I had built the barn to hold hay," he told the judge.
Walker, who owned many guns, handled security. He also arranged for a company to supply portable toilets.