305 pit bulls impounded from suspects in weekend raids
COLUMBIA, South Carolina—Raiding alleged dogfighters in the Carolinas for at least the seventh time in 10 months, “a joint team of more than 60 federal and state law enforcement officers executed nearly two dozen warrants” over the weekend of September 24-25, 2022 “in what is believed to be the biggest takedown of a dogfighting operation in South Carolina history,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina announced on September 26, 2022.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not disclose how much of the evidence presented to obtain the warrants came through recent plea bargain settlements of previous dogfighting cases in the region.
Interrupted dogfight in progress
The first of the September 24, 2022 raids “interrupted a scheduled dogfighting match in Richland County,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office media release said.
Fourteen pit bulls were impounded at that location, Humane Society of the U.S. president Kitty Block blogged on September 26, 2022.
“The following morning, the officers executed 23 search warrants at various residences and properties in Richland, York, Orangeburg, Clarendon, Lee, and Sumter Counties that were known dogfighting kennels or associated with dogfighting,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office media release continued.
“In total,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, “305 dogs were rescued.”
Of the 305, 275 pit bulls were “believed to be associated with dogfighting.”
WSOC television news, of Charlotte, North Carolina, added that, “At a property in York,” in addition to approximately 50 pit bulls, “30 beagles were found. The sheriff’s office said the dogs were taken by York County Animal Control and a contract company that specializes in rescuing fighting dogs.”
Names of suspects not released
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately release the names of the human suspects.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office credited the Humane Society of the United States and Bark Nation, of Ferndale, Michigan, with supporting the operation “by assisting with animal handling and care of the animals.”
The September 24-25, 2022 series of raids “seized approximately 30 firearms, $40,000 in cash, and various evidence related to dogfighting. More than 20 individuals were arrested for state charges relating to animal cruelty and dogfighting,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office finished.
ANIMALS 24-7 was informed by a well-placed confidential source, but has not been able to verify, that many and perhaps most of the impounded pit bulls have been transported to Michigan for possible rehoming.
As of September 27, 2022, neither Bark Nation nor the Humane Society of the U.S. had made such a claim, and as the pit bulls will be evidence for criminal charges against the 20 human suspects, relocating them from near the points of seizure and rehoming them rapidly would be unusual.
Anthonio Latoranodo Orr
The September 24-25, 2022 raids appear to have culminated a series of events that may have begun with the June 24, 2019 arrest of Anthonio Latoranodo Orr, 49, in York County, South Carolina, on seventy-five warrants alleging his involvement in “animal fighting or baiting, ill treatment of animals, violation of county ordinance, trafficking ice crack cocaine, weapons violations, and other drug violations,” itemized WBTV.
Orr had already served a five-year prison sentence after he was arrested for alleged dogfighting in February 2010, and convicted in March 2011.
Orr, now 52, on August 22, 2022 pleaded guilty to some of the charges in York County Criminal Court and was sentenced to serve seven years in prison.
Following the June 2019 Orr arrest, action against alleged dogfighters accelerated with the February 2021 impoundment of 25 pit bulls from Delontay Moore, 26, of Concord, North Carolina.
According to a November 17, 2021 media release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Moore was sentenced to “75 months in prison for conspiracy to commit dog fighting offenses and being a felon in possession of a firearm,” after pleading guilty to the charges on July 8, 2021.
Said the November 17, 2021 U.S. Department of Justice media release, “Moore sponsored and exhibited a dog in a dog fight in December 2019, after conspiring with others to prepare and train the dog for the fight. The dog lost and died of injuries sustained during the fight.
“In February 2021, agents seized 25 dogs from Moore, many of which exhibited the types of scars that are observed in dogs that are used in dog fights. They also showed evidence of gross neglect, including infections where their ears had been cropped; inflamed or infected wounds; and dehydration. On the day of the seizure, three dogs required emergency treatment, including treatment for a fractured leg with exposed bone.
“The felon-in-possession charge,” the November 17, 2021 U.S. Department of Justice media release added, “stemmed from an investigation by the Concord Police Department. According to court documents, the Concord Police Department received an anonymous tip that Moore — who had previously been convicted of drug and weapons felonies — was storing firearms around his property.
“In December 2019, a detective with the Concord Police Department conducted surveillance there and saw Moore carry what proved to be an AR-15 assault style rifle behind his house and stash it under a tarp. Concord Police Department subsequently recovered the weapon during a search.”
Sixty felonies consolidated into ten
The Moore case appeared to be unrelated to the next two dogfighting busts in the Carolinas, but those busts may have helped law enforcement to build the list of suspects who were arrested in the September 24-25, 2022 raids.
On April 28, 2022, disclosed Genevieve Curtis, of WSOC television news in Gastonia, North Carolina, “Animal care enforcement officers began investigating after receiving a tip that dogs were being trained to fight.
“They brought about 30 dogs to shelters for evaluation and treatment.”
The dogs’ owner, Terrance Marvin Cooper, 39, was initially charged with 30 counts of animal cruelty and 30 counts of dogfighting.
Those sixty counts, all felonies, were in June 2022 consolidated into five felony counts of cruelty to animals and five felony counts of dog fighting,
Meanwhile, Dwayne Loadholt, 43, on May 25, 2022 in Fairfax, South Carolina, was charged with “animal fighting and ill treatment of animals, both felonies,” reported FITSNews executive editor Liz Farrell, “after a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigation led to the discovery of ‘pit bull type dogs’ on his property who had scarring on their faces, ears, necks and front legs, according to a [South Carolina Law Enforcement Division] news release.
“The dogs were brought to the attention of investigators,” Farrell said, “when an Allendale County Sheriff’s Office deputy responded to a call for service at Loadholt’s property after receiving complaints about animals being mistreated there. These complaints had also been made in the past.”
A third incident coming to light at about the same time, possibly contributing information to the dogfighting probe, involved the theft of a Yorkipoo, a cross of a Yorkshire terrier with a poodle.
The Yorkipoo allegedly thrown into a pen with pit bulls who killed her. The killing was videotaped and posted to social media.
The location, reported Andrew Dys of the Rock Hill Herald, was “in rural eastern York County south of Rock Hill, near the Catawba River, north of the Chester County line,” in proximity to one of the September 24-25, 2022 raids.
McMillian, Twitty, & Cave
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville, North Carolina, issued the June 7, 2022 twelve-count indictment of Laddie Dwayne McMillian, 46, and Derrick Twitty, 47, respectively of Columbus and Tryon, South Carolina, for multiple dogfighting-related offenses.
Toriano Marcellus Cave, 51, of High Point, North Carolina, was raided next, on July 21, 2022.
Law enforcement had known at least since 2005 that Cave was involved in dogfighting, according to testimony incorporated into the December 19, 2006 drug trafficking indictments of three other men, Walter Ells, Dorian Swan, and Kelvin Moses.
Cave was charged with felonious possession of a dog he allegedly intended to use for fighting.
Four days later, reported Morgan Fogarty of WCCB on July 25, 2022, police in Monroe, South Carolina “arrested 19-year-old Joshua Mungo, Junior,” charging him “with felony dogfighting, felony cruelty to animals, and misdemeanor restraining dogs in a cruel manner.
“42-year-old Genine Sturdivant was also charged for misdemeanor cruelty to animals,” Fogarty added. “Our animal rescue contacts tell us there were 40 adult dogs and ten puppies on the property. No word on where the dogs are now. We are told the investigation is ongoing, and more charges could be filed.”
Mungo was previously arrested with two other men in November 2019 on eleven counts of felony breaking and entering of a motor vehicle, one count of attempting breaking and entering into a motor vehicle, one count of larceny of a firearm, another county of felony larceny and an additional count of misdemeanor larceny.
The Orr sentencing on August 22, 2022 and the raids of September 24-25 followed at approximate one-month intervals.