LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- More than a dozen Kentuckians now face charges for animal fighting and cruelty.
A grand jury in London, Kentucky, has indicted 17 people in four separate cases in eastern Kentucky.
In the first case, Cruz Alejandro Mercado-Vazquez, of Maysville, Kentucky, is accused of trying to bribe the Mason County Sheriff and training roosters to participate in cockfighting.
In a second case, eight people face various charges for operating animal fights or for participating in the fighting in London, Kentucky. They including Rickie Dale Johnson, Jacklyn Rachelle Johnson, Harold "Fuzzy" Hale, Orville D. Asher and Joshua Westerfield (all of London, Kentucky), as well as Dallas Cope of Livingston, Kentucky; Hiram B. Creech Jr. of East Bernstadt, Kentucky; and Bradley Cye Rose of Parkers Lake, Kentucky.
In another case, five people are accused of organizing and holding weekly animal fights in Manchester, Kentucky. They include Millard Oscar Hubbard, Timothy Sizemore, Lester Collett and Justin Smith (all of Manchester, Kentucky), as well as Beachel Collett, of Oneida, Kentucky.
And in the fourth case, three people are charged with conspiracy to knowingly sponsor and exhibit animals in fights at a chicken pit near Nicholas and Fleming Counties. Those defendants include Walter H. Mitchell, of Ewing Kentucky, as well as Jerrard McVey and Linda McVey of Carlisle, Kentucky.
"Animal fighting ventures are cruel and illegal," said Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, in a statement. "We are committed to enforcing federal animal cruelty laws and I want to commend the efforts of our law enforcement partners, whose dedication and effort led to these indictments for the Eastern District of Kentucky."
"The gruesome ritual of animal fighting simply has no place in a civilized society," said Special Agent in Charge Jodi Cohen of the FBI Louisville Office, in a statement. "Animal cruelty, however, is just one criminal aspect surrounding this barbaric activity. Whether it is illegal gambling or the attempted corruption of our public officials, the criminal enterprise surrounding cockfighting operations will not be tolerated."
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky, each defendant faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Mercado-Vasquez faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 for the attempted bribery counts.
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