A Department of Defense communications official was charged with promoting a dogfighting ring, the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland said on Monday.
The official, Frederick Douglass Moorefield Jr., 62, of Arnold, Md., was a deputy chief information officer for command, control and communications, according to the affidavit and Mr. Moorefield’s LinkedIn page, which said he had been with the department for 11 years.
According to the affidavit, Mr. Moorefield and another defendant, Mario Damon Flythe, 49, of Anne Arundel County, Md., communicated using encrypted messaging applications to discuss how to train dogs for illegal dogfighting, to coordinate dogfights, to discuss betting on dogfighting and to discuss dogs that had died as a result of dogfighting. Mr. Moorefield and Mr. Flythe used the names “Geehad Kennels” and “Razor Sharp Kennels” to identify their dogfighting operations. They also discussed with others across the United States how to conceal their conduct from law enforcement, the affidavit said.
Mr. Moorefield and Mr. Flythe appeared in court on Thursday and were released pending trial.
The two men are accused of buying, selling, delivering, possessing, training or transporting animals for participation in an animal fighting venture; using the postal service or other interstate instrumentality for promoting or furthering an animal fighting venture; and engaging in a conspiracy to sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal fighting venture. Mr. Moorefield and Mr. Flythe face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for possessing, training or transporting animals for participation in an animal fighting venture.
Law enforcement officers carried out search warrants at the Maryland homes of the two men on Sept. 6 and recovered 12 dogs. Officers also seized veterinary steroids; training schedules; a carpet stained with blood; a dog vest with a patch that read, “Geehad Kennels”; and an electrical plug with jumper cables, a type of device that has been used to execute dogs that lose dogfights.
According to court documents, Anne Arundel County Animal Control responded in November 2018 to a report of two dead dogs found with wounds and scarring patterns consistent with dogfighting in a plastic bag about six miles from Mr. Moorefield’s house. The bag also contained mail addressed to Mr. Moorefield.
The Pentagon said in a statement that it was aware of the criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. “We can confirm that the individual is no longer in the workplace, but we cannot comment further on an individual personnel matter,” Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman said.
Dogfighting is a sport where dogs are bred for aggressiveness and forced to fight one another for the entertainment and profit of spectators, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or A.S.P.C.A., which estimates that hundreds of thousands of dogs are forced to train, fight and suffer every year.
In 2019, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act was signed into law making intentional acts of animal cruelty federal crimes that carry penalties of up to seven years in prison. Federal law had already banned sponsoring animal fights, but the 2019 law was passed to help prosecutors address cases of abused animals that cross state lines, according to animal rights groups.
Stacy Wolf, a senior vice president at the A.S.P.C.A., said that this case demonstrated that dogfighting is much more common than many people realize. She said that strengthened dogfighting laws were encouraging, but that more progress needed to be made.
“Law enforcement is far less likely to investigate and intervene in animal fighting operations when they are unsure if animal protection agencies can bear the cost and burden of caring for seized animals, which means fewer animals saved,” Ms. Wolf said. Dogfighting is a public safety risk, she added, associated with criminal activity including illegal gambling and possession of drugs and firearms.
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