Atlanta, Georgia - Two Georgia residents convicted on dog-fighting and drug distribution charges resulting from an investigation into a significant multi-state dog-fighting and cocaine trafficking ring were sentenced to prison Tuesday.
Jarvis Lockett, 41, of Warner Robins, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 10 years’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture and cocaine distribution. Co-defendant Christopher Raines, 51, of Talbotton, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 135 months’ imprisonment, five years’ supervised release, and pay a fine of $10,000, after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base. U.S. District Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self III presided over both hearings. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Lockett and Raines were conspirators in a criminal enterprise that profited from the suffering of both animal and human victims,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Dog-fighting is closely associated with other serious crimes, and today’s sentences show that those who engage in this cruel and inhumane practice face significant prison time.”
“This multi-state investigation began with Jarvis Lockett, who was an active and aggressive participant in the dog-fighting world,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary of the Middle District of Georgia. “Federal, state and local law enforcement meticulously followed every lead, and their unwavering commitment to justice has put an end to a complex and deadly dog-fighting and drug distribution network. Violent dog-fighting circles are proven breeding grounds for a wide-range of criminal activities that harm the well-being of our communities and will not be tolerated in the Middle District of Georgia.”
“We have investigated animal cruelty cases in the past, so initially when this information came in, we thought that it would involve a handful of local people fighting dogs for sport,” said Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese. “What started out as a local investigation soon turned into a complex investigation that included people from multiple states and all walks of life. It is impossible to comprehend just how cruel these dogs were being treated for the purpose of training them to kill. Our team rescued 168 pit bulls during the execution of the search warrants and not the first dog acted aggressively toward the officers. The dogs just wanted attention and love. Organized dog-fighting is a dark, sick and disgusting culture that has no place in our society.”
According to court documents, law enforcement investigated a criminal organization involved in both cocaine distribution and organized dog-fighting based out of Roberta, Georgia, which extended into North Georgia, Florida and Alabama from May 2019 until February 2020. In February 2020, law enforcement executed 15 residential search warrants and seized more than 150 dogs that were being used for organized dog-fighting.
During this time period, Lockett attended and had his dogs participate in dog fights in Melrose, Florida, and Macon, Georgia, where he also acted as a referee. In addition, he attended, participated and/or attempted to participate in dog fights in Taylor County, Georgia, Eastman, Georgia, and Shiloh, Georgia, where Lockett received $16,000 for his winning dog. Text messages obtained from a search warrant executed on Lockett’s cell phone detailed his dog-fighting ventures, including communications between Lockett and multiple defendants on subjects such as killing an unaggressive dog, planning a dog fight and soliciting a female dog for fighting for $10,000. Additional text messages discussed the purchases of large quantities of cocaine and spending $250,000 on narcotics from co-defendant Derrick Owens. A confidential informant (CI) purchased cocaine from Lockett at a Roberta, Georgia, family home on July 10, 2019 and Sept. 12, 2019.
On Feb. 26, 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant at the Roberta residence recovering cash, cocaine and evidence of dog-fighting activities to include veterinary penicillin, break sticks, photos of fighting dogs, a dog weight training vest, a dog-fighting pit, a dog treadmill, and blood-stained carpet and walls. 14 dogs were recovered. The dogs had scarring consistent with dogs being used for dog-fighting activities. On the same day, investigators executed a search warrant at a Warner Robins property Lockett owned, where they found a pit bull terrier dog that was extremely injured and lethargic. The injuries had been stapled shut. The dog died two days later of his injuries. Agents found other evidence of dog-fighting activity including medicine and supplies to treat animals for injuries sustained from dog-fighting activities, a notepad containing dog names and dollar amounts, a 50-pound digital scale, paperwork from a veterinary clinic, a blender with dog food and medicine, dog breeding registration certificates and several bags of cash.
Co-defendant Raines’ drug distribution and dog-fighting activities were uncovered during the course of the investigation. Law enforcement executed a search warrant of Raines’ Talbotton property on Feb. 26, recovering 41 dogs used in dog-fighting. The dogs were malnourished with scars, hair loss and spliced ears. Agents seized many items used in dog-fighting including a skin stapler, IV kits, veterinary medical supplies and dog breeding certificates. In his plea agreement, Raines admitted that he was a manager or supervisor in the criminal organization and was responsible for drug transactions ranging from a quarter to 1.5 kilograms of cocaine.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration; The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General (USDA-OIG); U.S. Marshals Service; the Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD); Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI); Bibb County Sheriff’s Office; Crawford County Sheriff’s Office; Houston County Sheriff’s Office; Merriweather County Sheriff’s Office; Peach County Sheriff’s Office; Taylor County Sheriff’s Office; Webster County Sheriff’s Office; Byron Police Department and the Fort Valley Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Keyes with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia and Trial Attorney Banu Rangarajan with the Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case.