Virginia, Maryland men plead guilty for dogfighting conspiracy

A Virginia man and a Maryland man have both pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a dogfighting conspiracy that has allegedly been around for more than 20 years, according to the Department of Justice. 

Derek Garcia, 41, and Ricardo Thorne, 52, had been using a messaging app private group from at least May 2015 to August 2020 as a place where they and their associates could discuss training fighting dogs, exchange videos about dogfighting and arrange and coordinate dog fights, according to court documents.

Members of the group, referred to as "The DMV Board" or "The Board," also used the messaging app to compare methods of killing dogs that lost fights, as well as to circulate media reports about conspirators who had been caught by law enforcement and discuss methods to minimize the likelihood that they would be caught themselves.

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According to court documents, in November 2015, Thorne told another conspirator that Thorne made a lot of money from charging admission to dog fights that he held for years at a warehouse off Kenilworth Avenue in D.C. Thorne further said that he had a fighting dog that killed six other dogs in less than a year. 

In December 2016, Garcia sold a fighting dog to another individual involved in dogfighting for $1,700. In March 2017, upon the arrest of another individual involved in the fights, Garcia instructed one of his co-conspirators on how to delete the messages on the DMV Board without deleting the group from the messaging app.

In June 2017, Thorne posted to the DMV Board that the most he had ever won in one fight was $15,000. In January 2019, Thorne posted to the DMV Board that his "Darkside Kennels" had been around for over 20 years.

On July 30, 2019, Thorne possessed at his residence dogfighting paraphernalia and nine pitbull-type dogs, many with scarring patterns and lacerations consistent with dogfighting. When questioned by law enforcement agents, Thorne denied any involvement ever in dogfighting, and said that he did not know that there were nine dogs tied up in his backyard.

READ MORE: $5K reward after severely injured dog found abandoned in DC; organized dogfighting suspected

According to court documents, on or about June 28, 2020, Garcia posted on the DMV Board a narrative of a fight between dogs, one of which was conditioned and handled by Garcia himself. Garcia notified the DMV Board that his dog was the winner, after his opponent’s dog stopped moving at 32 minutes into the fight.

In August, Garcia, Thorne and four others were indicted for a dogfighting conspiracy involving the "DMV Board." Earlier this month, three other conspirators pleaded guilty to the same dogfighting conspiracy.

Garcia and Thorne are each scheduled to be sentenced on March 7, 2023. Each faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.