An FBI press release dated Aug. 26, 2013, announced the arrest of 10 individuals involved in a dog fighting and gambling conspiracy. In the sweep, 367 Pit Bull Terriers were seized which appeared to have been engaged in fights multiple times. The arrests came after they were indicted for violations of the federal dog fighting statute and the federal gambling statute.
The accused were indicted on 30-count federal charges that the individuals conspired to promote and sponsor dog fights and conspired to possess, buy, sell, transport and deliver dogs that were involved in dog fighting between 2009 and 2013. Additional charges were given to individual defendants with promoting or sponsoring a dog fight and with possessing, buying, selling, transporting, and delivering a dog for fighting purposes. Also, these defendants were charged with conducting an illegal gambling business.
On Friday, the agents executed 13 search warrants, 11 of which were in the state of Alabama and two in Georgia. In addition to the 367 Pit Bull Terriers, the agents also seized guns, illegal narcotics, drugs used to treat and train dogs, and other evidence indicative of dog fighting. They also seized over $500,000 from dog fighters involved in the organization.
Those arrested were identified as:
Donnie Anderson, 48, of Auburn, Alabama
Demontt Allen, 37, of Houston, Texas
William Antone Edwards, 42, of Brantley, Alabama
William Oneil Edwards, 39, of Elba, Alabama
Robin Stinson, 40, of Elba, Alabama
Michael Martin, 54, of Auburn, Alabama
Lawrence Watford, 35, of Adel, Georgia
Ricky Van Le, 24, of Biloxi, Mississippi
David Sellers, 52, of Opelika, Alabama
Sandy Brown, 47, Brownsville, Alabama
Involved and assisting in the investigation were the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Auburn Police Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States to help investigate the dog fighting and take custody of the dogs seized.
“These defendants were betting between $5,000 and $200,000 on one dog fight,” stated U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. “The number of dogs seized and the amount of money involved in this in case shows how extensive this underworld of dog fighting is. These dog fighters abuse, starve, and kill their dogs for the supposed ‘fun’ of watching and gambling on a dog fight. Their behavior is deplorable, will not be tolerated, and will be punished to the full extent of the law.” (FBI press release)
“The sheer number of dogs seized speaks volumes as to the inhumane and violent abuse of animals associated with the illegal practices of drug activity afflicting our communities,” stated Stephen Richardson, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Mobile Division. (Ibid)
“Today, we ended the torture of hundreds of abused and neglected dogs,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA. “Never again will these dogs be forced to fight, live in squalor, or be neglected and deprived of the bare necessities. The ASPCA is extremely grateful to federal and local authorities who pursued this widespread investigation for so long, and we are happy to lend our assistance.” (Ibid)
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years for conspiracy to fight dogs, a five-year maximum sentence on each of the 15 dog fighting counts, a five-year maximum for conducting a gambling business, and five-year maximum on the 13 counts of using the telephone to promote gambling. The defendants are also subject to fines and a period of supervised release if convicted.
We are reminded that an indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.