Louisiana Man Pleads Guilty to Dogfighting Conspiracy - Six Other Defendants Involved in the Animal Fighting Venture Have Already Been Convicted
BATON ROUGE, LA—United States Attorney Walt Green announced that yesterday U.S. District Judge Shelley Dick sentenced Joseph D. Melancon, age 45, to fifteen years imprisonment, five years of supervised release, restitution of approximately $42,200, and forfeiture of $40,975.
Melancon was sentenced following his conviction by a jury for conspiracy to steal firearms, possess and sell stolen firearms, and to possess firearms by a convicted felon; stealing firearms from a licensed federal firearms dealer; and possession of firearms by a convicted felon.
In April 2013, Melancon concocted a plan to steal firearms from the Hunter’s Run Gun Club, in Port Allen, Louisiana. He solicited Dustin Ray’s assistance to help him carry out this design. On April 13, 2013, Melancon and Ray traveled together from New Iberia to Port Allen, broke into the Hunters Run Gun Club, and stole approximately thirty-four (34) firearms. The Gun Club was approximately five hundred (500) yards from the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and the West Baton Rouge Parish Prison. On their return to New Iberia, Melancon sold one of the stolen firearms and used the cash to purchase an amount of cocaine, which he and Ray consumed later.
A short time following their return to New Iberia, Melancon and Ray obtained Jeremy Smothers’ assistance in finding someone willing to purchase the firearms they had stolen from the Gun Club. Later that day, they drove to a location in New Iberia where Melancon and Ray sold most of those firearms to that individual.
On August 21, 2013, Ray pled guilty to conspiracy to steal firearms, possess and sell stolen firearms, and to possess firearms by a convicted felon; stealing firearms from a licensed federal firearms dealer; and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. Ray had an earlier felony conviction for possession of methamphetamine. On October 23, 2014, Judge Dick sentenced Ray to serve forty-eight (48) months in prison, a fine of $1000, and $42,200 in restitution.
On May 29, 2014, Smothers pled guilty to conspiracy to possess, sell, and dispose of stolen firearms. On October 27, 2014, Judge James J. Brady sentenced Smother to serve forty-eight (48) months in prison and pay restitution of $36,775.
U.S. Attorney Green stated: “Today’s sentencing will result in another criminal offender being taken off the streets for a significant amount of time. Convicted felons who steal and possess firearms pose a danger to every one of us. I appreciate all the efforts by the prosecutors and the agents to ensure justice was done and our communities were made safer.”
The investigation in this matter was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, and the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office. The matter was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Reginald Jones and Robert W. Piedrahita who serves as Litigation Counsel.