Florida Couple Pleads Guilty to Scheme to Evade $42 Million in Duties for Illegally Importing and Selling Plywood
An indictment was unsealed today charging 11 individuals on a 136-count federal indictment including violations of drug conspiracy, drug possession, and drug possession with the intent to distribute, and violations of the dog fighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and conspiracy to commit the same.
The defendants include: Jarvis Lockett, 40, of Warner Robins, Georgia; Derrick Owens, 37, of Woodland, Georgia; Christopher Raines, 50, of Talbotton, Georgia; Armard Davis, 41, of Fort Valley, Georgia; Jason Carter, 38, of Phoenix City, Alabama; Shaquille Bentley, 26, of Roberta, Georgia; Bryanna Holmes, 24, of Fort Valley, Georgia; Vernon Vegas, 49, of Suwanee, Georgia; Lekey Davis, 45, of Talbotton, Georgia; Kathy Ann Whitfield, 61, of Columbus, Georgia; and Rodrick Walton, 40, of Shiloh, Georgia.
“As this case demonstrates, we continue to aggressively prosecute dog fighters and those who work together to support and further their inhumane criminal activities,” said Jean Williams, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We thank our federal and local law enforcement partners who made this operation possible.”
“Dog fighting is brutal and illegal; it is particularly troubling when combined with drug trafficking,” said Peter D. Leary, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “We will investigate and prosecute individuals who engage in these criminal acts and seek justice for all of their victims. I thank our law enforcement partners for their hard work on this significant investigation.”
The indictment alleges that defendants Lockett, Owens, Raines, A. Davis, Carter, Bentley, Holmes, Vegas, L. Davis, and Whitfield were involved in a conspiracy between May 2019 and February 2020 to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 28 grams or more of cocaine base. Lockett is charged in separate counts with distribution of cocaine base and cocaine, and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine base and cocaine. A. Davis and Holmes are charged in separate counts with possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and cocaine. Walton is charged in a separate count with possession of cocaine.
The indictment further alleges that defendants Lockett, Owens, Raines, A. Davis, and Walton were involved in a conspiracy to sponsor and exhibit dogs in a dog fight, and possess, train, transport, deliver, and receive dogs for the purpose of having the dogs participate in a dog fight. The indictment outlines dog fights the defendants are alleged to have attended between May 2019 and February 2020, as well as discussions between the co-conspirators about training and matching up their dogs for fighting. In addition, the defendants are separately charged with possession of dogs for purposes of having the dogs participate in dog fights as follows: Lockett – 15 counts; Raines – 40 counts; Owens – 44 counts, Walton – 18 counts; A. Davis – nine counts.
This matter is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, and local law enforcement agencies. Senior Trial Attorney Jennifer Blackwell of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney William Keyes are prosecuting the case.
A federal criminal indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.