5 Georgia men sentenced to federal prison for participating in a dog fighting operation

DUBLIN, GA:  Five Georgia men have been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a large-scale dog fighting operation.

The 96 dogs rescued from the operation were discovered during searches conducted as part of an investigation into a drug trafficking conspiracy in Laurens, Treutlen, Johnson, and Emanuel Counties, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Two of those implicated in the dog-fighting operation also were sentenced in connection with the drug-trafficking conspiracy.

“As this investigation shows, animal fighting operations often occur in conjunction with other illegal activity,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “In this case, holding these defendants accountable protects the welfare of these rescued animals while also removing dangerous drugs from the community.”

The five defendants each pled guilty to Conspiracy to Violate the Animal Welfare Act, and were sentenced in U.S. District Court. They include:

  • Travis Martin, a/k/a “Fat,” 43, of Wrightsville, Ga., sentenced to 24 months in prison and fined $1,000. U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen ordered the new sentence to be served consecutively to the 200-month sentence Martin is serving as the leader of the drug trafficking conspiracy;
  • Sentell Carey, 41, of Wrightsville, Ga., sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $2,000. Carey is serving a sentence of probation in the drug trafficking conspiracy;
  • Dennis Wilcher, a/k/a “Buck,” 42, of Wrightsville, Ga., sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $3,000;
  • Terry Gilmore, 28, of Sandersville, Ga., sentenced to 23 months in prison and fined $2,500; and,
  • Jonathan Linder, 35, of Rentz, Ga., sentenced to 20 months in prison and fined $2,000.

The defendants are all prohibited from owning dogs or engaging in any activity involving dogs, and must serve three years of supervised release upon completion of their prison terms. There is no parole in the federal system.

As described in court documents and testimony, the 2022 investigation by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration led to a 27-county federal indictment charging 11 defendants with participating in an operation distributing methamphetamine and heroin in the greater Laurens County area. That investigation led to multiple searches of residences and vehicles and the seizure of large amounts of drugs, cash, and firearms.

During that investigation, authorities rescued 96 dogs suspected to be part of a dog fighting operation from three locations in Johnson County, and two other locations in Laurens and Washington counties.

The dogs were seized in a civil action brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia, and the U.S. Marshals Service contracted with an agency to provide veterinary service, care, and rehabilitation of the rescued dogs.

“The intentional infliction of pain and suffering on animals for sport is unfathomable,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Miles Davis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG). “We appreciate the commitment of our law enforcement partners to pursue these individuals who choose to participate in these heinous acts while also committing other severe offenses in our communities.”

The criminal dog fighting prosecution was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General and lead Agent Kelsey Tolomeo, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service and local law enforcement agencies, and prosecuted for the United States by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica K. Rock, while the civil forfeiture of the dogs was coordinated by Southern District of Georgia Civil Division Chief Shannon Heath Statkus.

The drug trafficking case was investigated by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration, with the assistance of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Southeastern Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Ocmulgee Drug Task Force, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer J. Kirkland.

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1 Comment

  1. I wish they wouldn’t be as lenient with the sentencing as they are. A life is a life no matter the species.

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