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ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Woodbridge man pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in dogfighting, and a Camp Springs, Maryland, man pleaded guilty today to advertising a dogfight on the internet.
According to court documents, from at least May 2015 through August 2020, Derek Garcia, 41, Ricardo Thorne, 52, and other conspirators from Virginia, D.C., and Maryland, used a messaging app private group, which they generally referred to as "The DMV Board" or "The Board," as a place where they and their associates could discuss training fighting dogs, exchange videos about dogfighting, and arrange and coordinate dog fights, away from the view of law enforcement authorities. Members of The DMV Board also used the messaging app to compare methods of killing dogs that lost fights, as well as to circulate media reports about conspirators who had been caught by law enforcement and discuss methods to minimize the likelihood that they would be caught themselves.
According to court documents, in November 2015, Thorne told another conspirator that Thorne made a lot of money from charging admission to dog fights that he held for years at a warehouse off Kenilworth Avenue in the District of Columbia. Thorne further said that he had a fighting dog that killed six other dogs in less than a year.
Further, according to court documents, in December 2016, Garcia sold a fighting dog to another individual involved in dogfighting for $1700. In March 2017, upon the arrest of another individual involved in the fights, Garcia instructed one of his co-conspirators on how to delete the messages on the DMV Board without deleting the group from the messaging app.
In June 2017, Thorne posted to the DMV Board that the most he had ever won in one fight was $15,000. In January 2019, Thorne posted to the DMV Board that his “Darkside Kennels” had been around for over 20 years. On July 30, 2019, Thorne possessed at his residence dogfighting paraphernalia and nine pitbull-type dogs, many with scarring patterns and lacerations consistent with dogfighting. When questioned by law enforcement agents, Thorne denied any involvement ever in dogfighting, and said that he did not know that there were nine dogs tied up in his backyard.
According to court documents, on or about June 28, 2020, Garcia posted on the DMV Board a narrative of a fight between dogs, one of which was conditioned and handled by Garcia himself. Garcia notified the DMV Board that his dog was the winner, after his opponent’s dog stopped moving at 32 minutes into the fight.
In August, Garcia, Thorne, and four others were indicted for a dogfighting conspiracy involving the “DMV Board.” Earlier this month, three other conspirators pleaded guilty to the same dogfighting conspiracy. Garcia and Thorne are each scheduled to be sentenced on March 7, 2023. Each faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema accepted the plea.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon Kromberg and Cristina Stam are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:22-cr-154.