JACKSON, Miss. – Federal authorities arrested 14 people in Mississippi and Louisiana on Tuesday in a cocaine trafficking investigation that also resulted in more than 40 dogs being seized from a dogfighting operation.
A federal grand jury handed down a 21-count indictment on charges of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine hydrochloride, said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The Drug Enforcement Agency learned of the dogfighting operation during its narcotics investigation, said Michael Sanders, an agency spokesman in New Orleans.
Harrison County Sheriff George Payne Jr. said 41 dogs were confiscated in Mississippi, and an animal protection organization said six more were taken in Louisiana.
Payne said the dogs were being trained in Mississippi and taken to Louisiana to fight.
Laura Maloney of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the dogs, all American pit-bulls, had both "old and fresh wounds."
"The dogs are scarred to quite an extent," she said.
Besides the dogs, authorities found scales for weighing dogs before a match, breed stands used to mate aggressive dogs, treadmills used to prepare dogs for matches and extensive records noting successes and losses in dogfighting contests, Letten said.
"They were what are called 'keeps,'" Maloney said of the raided sites. "It's a place for a training regiment to get the dogs ready for fights."
The Harrison County Sheriff's Department planned to charge those arrested in Mississippi with felony counts of dogfighting. In Louisiana, felony charges were under consideration in St. Bernard Parish, Maloney said.
The Humane Society of South Mississippi was making room for the seized dogs, spokesman Joe Elmore said. Authorities will quarantine the dogs until they decide what to do with them. Elmore said options range from adoption to euthanasia, depending on each dog's condition.
Each of those arrested faces up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million if convicted of conspiracy to distribute.