Cane Valley Kennels Dog-Fighting Trainer and Breeder Sentenced to Five Years Imprisonment

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two dogs are fighting on the street. Agressive dogs. Dog attack.

MACON, Ga. – A well-known dog-fighting trainer and breeder, who owned Cane Valley Kennels, was sentenced to the statutory maximum of five years in prison resulting from an investigation into a significant multi-state dog fighting and cocaine trafficking ring.

Vernon Vegas, 49, of Suwanee, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $10,000 fine by U.S. District Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self, III on Tuesday, Jan. 18, after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture. Additionally, pursuant to his plea agreement, Vegas agreed to forfeit $116,819 in cash seized during the investigation.

“Vernon Vegas has received the maximum prison sentence for training others in the brutal and bloody business of dog fighting, a world that fosters a multitude of other dangerous criminal activity,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Our office, working alongside local, state, and federal law enforcement, will hold individuals and groups that participate in illegal dog-fighting accountable for their crimes.”

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“Vernon Vegas is being held accountable for his violent, illegal and inhumane actions,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This case illustrates that dog-fighting is intimately connected with the underworld of drugs and organized crime, and that the Department of Justice will investigate and prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law.”

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 Feb. 2020. In Feb. 2020, law enforcement executed 15 residential search warrants and seized more than 150 dogs that were being used for organized dog fighting.

Between Oct. 1996 and Feb. 2020, Vegas, the owner of Cane Valley Kennels, bred, trained, sold and transported dogs for the purpose of the dog fighting, including Grand Champion “Baby Gracie,” Champion “Son of Sam 2XBis,” Champion “Spider,” Champion “Bucky Mike,” Champion “Bear,” Champion “Kocky Mike,” Champion “Fantasmin,” Champion “Julie the Great,” and one-time winner, “Brenda.” As part of his business, Vegas designed and offered a seven-week “keep” where he trained dogs for animal fighting ventures, prepared on-line pedigrees for the fighting dogs bred and trained at Cane Valley Kennels, provided advice to his co-conspirators on how to train dogs for purposes of engaging in animal fighting ventures, and kept a multitude of training and conditioning equipment including slat mills, chains, a staple gun, hanging weight scales, break sticks, flirt poles and various medicines to treat injuries or disease sustained by dogs made to fight. Between Jan. 2017 and Feb. 2020, Vegas attended dog fights with co-conspirators Derrick Owens and Christopher Raines at locations in the Middle District of Georgia and advised Owens on various matters related to preparing dogs for animal fighting.

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The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, The United States 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.

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