Dogfighting, drugs, & firearms
AKRON, Ohio––Convicted dogfighter Ronald Smith, 39, of Akron, Ohio was on December 19, 2022 sentenced to serve ten years and three months in jail, after pleading guilty to a 22-count indictment, including charges of dogfighting, drug trafficking, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
U.S. District Judge John R. Adams further ordered Smith to pay $233,367.70 in restitution to K2 Solutions, a dog training facility located in Southern Pines, North Carolina, for the care and rehabilitation of 15 pit bulls impounded from Smith in May 2022.
U.S. Marshals Service posted reward
Smith, after some time at large, was reportedly arrested in Akron in July 2022, two weeks after the U.S. Marshals Service posted a reward for information leading to his capture.
“In May 2022,” explained WKYC news reporter Ben Axelrod, “Smith was charged with 15 counts of possession and training of dogs for the purposes of an animal fighting venture; conspiracy to distribute and possess, with intent to distribute, a controlled substance; distribution of a controlled substance; possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and felon in possession of a firearm.
“Authorities found found Smith to be in possession of items used to train and prepare dogs for participation in dog fighting at two residential properties he owned and maintained in Akron,” Axelrod said.
“Those items included two treadmills designed for dogs; a caged rabbit placed in front of a treadmill; performance-enhancing and first-aid-related dog medication; numerous ‘break sticks’ spattered with blood and teeth marks; and a walled pit spattered with blood.”
Eight pit bulls were found at one location, with seven at the other.
Also seized were three firearms, oxycodone, fentanyl, and fentanyl analogs.
Smith had previously been convicted of aggravated assault, burglary, possession of cocaine, trafficking heroin, possessing weapons while facing drug-related charges, and disrupting public services in the Summit and Medina County Courts of Common Pleas, Axelrod recounted.
That the 15 pit bulls were transported approximately 527 miles south to K2 Solutions in North Carolina, instead of being transferred to one or more of the many pit bull rescue organizations in the Akron/Cleveland corridor, may hint at a North Carolina connection in the case.
There may also be a Carolina connection in the background of the November 14, 2022 impoundment of 106 pit bulls from Vincent Le Mark Burrell, 55, in Dallas, Georgia.
Reported Eric Moody for Black Enterprise, “Authorities found 106 dogs in poor condition at Burrell’s property, according to the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office. The office posted on its Facebook page that Burrell was arrested at his home following a lengthy investigation.
“Over 100 additional counts expected”
“Authorities found dogs tied to trees and other objects in Burrell’s yard,” continued Moody. “The investigation also revealed that dogs were found in the basement of the home, with a strong odor from urine and feces present. Officials said protective equipment was required to safely enter the house where the dogs were located.”
Burrell was held without bond in the Paulding County Jail on three felony counts of cruelty to animals and one felony count of dog fighting.
“Although this investigation is still in its infancy, we expect over one hundred additional counts against Burrell as this case continues to unfold,” said Paulding County Sheriff Gary Gulledge, who acknowledged having worked with “many local, state, and federal entities” to arrange the bust.
Biggest dogfighting busts ever in September 2022
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.
“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.”
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.
However, 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 of Charlotte, North Carolina.
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.