MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man pleaded guilty Wednesday to organizing dog fights that attracted participants from several states who bet thousands on the deadly matches.
Donnie Anderson, 49, of Auburn, Ala., appeared in federal court in Montgomery to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy, four counts of sponsoring dog fights, one count of possessing a fighting dog, and one count of operating an illegal gambling business.
He admitted dog owners and spectators bet on the matches he organized in the Auburn area from 2009 to 2013 and that one dog owner left a fight with $35,000 in cash. He said the fights attracted between 10 and 40 spectators, who paid him a fee to enter. Dog owners and spectators bet on the matches, he said.
Another defendant, Ricky Van Le, 26, of Biloxi, Miss., pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He admitted providing dogs for one fight in Holly Springs, Miss., and for Anderson’s fights in the Auburn area. Van Le faces trial May 19 in Biloxi on a charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, according to the Harrison County district attorney’s office. He was arrested in September 2012 at a Biloxi home that contained more than 100 pounds of marijuana.
The two pleas Wednesday bring the number of guilty pleas to nine people from four states. A 10th defendant is scheduled to plead guilty Friday. No sentencing date has been set. The conspiracy, dog fighting and gambling charges carry up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
According to court testimony, the multistate crackdown grew out of a wiretap in a Georgia drug investigation where the suspect and Anderson had multiple conversations that often involved dog fighting. It ended up stretching from Georgia to Texas, but most of the fights were held in east Alabama. An indictment returned by a federal grand jury last year portrayed Anderson as a key figure in organizing the events.
Auburn Police Detective Chris Carver testified in a court hearing last year that Anderson would hold fights on his rural property at night and people would pay $100 to $150 to attend. He said there would be two to five fights per night, and the average amount of bets per fight would be $20,000 to $40,000. He said Anderson would provide beer and hot dogs for the participants.
Federal, state and local officers raided locations in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi in August, seizing more than 400 dogs. Anderson had 126 dogs seized from his property and Van Le had 49 dogs seized.
While he once could afford to keep the large number of dogs, Anderson is now so poor that he qualified to have a federal defender represent him in court Wednesday.
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