AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — The feds are calling this “Operation Sunrise.” It’s the second big cockfighting bust in the CSRA in the past seven months.
“What we have from these two disruptive events, is more than 200 people, most of them are from the outside area, traveling into our rural communities to participate in barbaric events that have no place in the southern district,” explained U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine.
Back in December, a raid in Lincoln County led to more than 30 arrests. The indictment for that raid was unsealed Monday. Lanier Augustus Hightower Jr. is charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor related to operating an animal fighting facility and conducting an illegal gambling operation.
“Also charged, 37 other individuals,” said Christine. “Six of them with similar charges. The remainder with misdemeanor charges of attending an animal fighting venture.”
District Attorney Bill Doupe says information from that raid led federal agents to the operation at Sunset Farms in Emanuel County, which they broke up Saturday. Bearly 200 people were at that farm at the time of the raid.
“You have a limited amount of time after the crime to get your evidence,” said Doupe. “After that, finding it’s going to be difficult. Jessica Rock helped us in a great deal with that.”
Federal agents seized nearly 800 roosters and cockfighting paraphernalia, tens of thousands of dollars, guns, and illegal drugs.
“It is a web of criminal activity that potentially leads us to dramatically other types of crime,” said Christine.
The farm’s owner, William Shannon Scott, is charged with sponsoring an animal in an animal fighting venture. Additional charges are pending.
“Almost all of the ones that have been fought were dead on the ground,” explained Christine. “Many of them, thank goodness, were yet to be fought.”
The U.S. Attorney says the roosters are with The United States Marshal’s Department. Both investigations are active.
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