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Romanian princess among 18 charged in Oregon over cockfighting

By Teresa Carson

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - A Romanian princess, the daughter of exiled former Romanian King Michael, appeared in a U.S. court on Friday with her American husband on charges related to cockfighting in rural Oregon, authorities said.

Irina Walker, 60, was among 18 people charged with holding 10 cockfighting "derbies" in 2012 and 2013, according to the indictment filed in federal district court in Oregon.

A woman reached by phone at the Romanian Embassy in Washington, D.C., who declined to be identified, said the mission had been informed that a daughter of King Michael had been arrested in Oregon.

"She was born in Switzerland," the woman said. "We don't really have a lot of information on her."

The exiled king, who was forced to abdicate in 1947 and then went into exile, said in a statement that he had learned of his daughter's arrest with "profound sadness."

"His Majesty and the entire royal family hope that the American justice system and the courts of the state of Oregon will solve this case in the fairest and quickest way possible," the statement said, according to an NBC news website.

Princess Irina is the third of five daughters of the Romanian king and is married to John Wesley Walker, a former Coos County sheriff's deputy, the Oregonian newspaper reported. She moved to Oregon in 1983 and married Walker in 2007, the paper reported.

Of the 18 people charged in the case, six including the Walkers are charged with operating an illegal gambling business. All 18 are charged with conspiracy and violating the Animal Welfare Act by conducting unlawful animal fighting ventures on the 10 occasions.

Calling cockfighting barbaric, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, Amanda Marshall, said in a statement that "cockfighting jeopardizes public health and safety and facilitates the commission of other criminal acts."

Each of the 12 counts carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. If convicted, the Walkers could also have to forfeit their ranch in Irrigon, Oregon, according to the Justice Department announcement.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

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