Emanuel Co. man pleads guilty to federal cockfighting charges

A cockfighting ring in Midville, Ga.
A cockfighting ring in Midville, Ga.(Georgia DNR)
Published: May. 24, 2021 at 1:02 PM EDT
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STATESBORO, Ga. (WTOC) - An Emanuel County man has entered a guilty plea to federal charges in connection with a cockfighting operation, according to a release from Acting U.S. Attorney David H. Estes of the Southern District of Georgia.

Wendell Allan Strickland, 67, of Swainsboro pled guilty to the following felonies: two counts of Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture, two counts of Conducting an Illegal Gambling Business and one count of Possession and Transport of an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture. He also pled guilty to one count of Attending an Animal Fighting Venture, a misdemeanor, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Estes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General (USDA-OIG) has led the investigating into animal fighting in the Southern District of Georgia. The investigation, involving federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, found that Strickland was operating a cockfighting operation known as The Red Barn on property he owned in Swainsboro, according to the release. The Red Barn was raided in September 2020, and law enforcement seized cockfighting gear and arrested Strickland.

“The gruesome ritual of animal fighting has no place in a civilized society and will not be tolerated,” said Jason Williams, Special Agent in Charge, USDA-OIG. “Our agency has prioritized dismantling animal fighting ventures as we continue to be relentless in our pursuit of those who would take pleasure in inflicting misery and death upon these defenseless creatures.”

The investigation also determined that cockfights were scheduled at The Red Barn on alternating weekends with those at Little Sunset, another venue in Midville. Little Sunset is owned by William Shannon Scott, 49, who was arrested on federal charges during Operation Sunrise. Scott was arrested in a June 2020 raid during a cockfighting tournament, when almost 200 additional possible defendants were identified by law enforcement, according to the release. Scott has pled guilty to Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture.

A third Georgia man, Lanier Augustus Hightower Jr., 65, of Lincolntown has also pled guilty to Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture after a December 2019 raid during a cockfighting tournament on his farm, according to the release.

All three men will be sentenced and face possible forfeiture of property, “significant financial penalties” and up to five years in prison followed by up to three years of supervised release.

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