Baltimore, Maryland - A Virginia resident was sentenced Thursday to 37 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to federal charges resulting from a lengthy investigation into a significant multi-state dog fighting conspiracy.

According to court documents, Raymond L. Johnson, 41, of Henrico, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition. Beginning in November 2019, law enforcement investigated a criminal organization involved in dog fighting based out of Richmond, and extending into Baltimore, Maryland. In late 2020, law enforcement agents executed three residential search warrants in Virginia and one residential search warrant in Maryland, and seized numerous dogs that were being used for organized dog fighting, together with dog fighting paraphernalia, firearms and ammunition.

During the investigation, Johnson communicated with his co-conspirators about breeding and fighting dogs, past dog fights, coordination of upcoming dog fights, and other topics detailing the business and the brutality of dog fighting. Johnson hosted two dog fights at his residence, videos of which were recovered by law enforcement. Agents executed a search warrant at Johnson’s Henrico residence on Nov. 19, 2020, and recovered nine pit bull terrier-type dogs with scarring consistent with dog fighting. Agents also seized other evidence of dog fighting activities at Johnson’s residence, including dog collars, medications, supplies and supplements and a treadmill used to train dogs for fighting.

Agents also recovered firearms and ammunition from Johnson’s residence, including an AK47 style rifle. As a convicted felon, it was illegal for Johnson to possess those firearms and ammunition.

“Raymond Johnson actively participated in a multi-state criminal enterprise that caused the needless suffering of innocent animals,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Johnson’s sentence demonstrates that dog fighting is a serious crime, which deserves a substantial penalty.”

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Special Agent in Charge Stanley M. Meador for the FBI’s Richmond Field Office made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Virginia Office of the Attorney General Animal Law Unit, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force and Henrico County Police Animal Protection.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen E. Anthony for the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorneys Banu Rangarajan and William Shapiro of Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section are prosecuting the case.