ALBANY, Ga. -- In a multi-agency operation, 27 people were taken into federal custody Wednesday on drug and dogfighting charges, Donalsonville Chief of Police Jimmy Holt said.
"This was part of an investigation into drug sales in south Georgia," Holt said. "Dogfighting was a part of it. I think about 23 had their first appearance in federal court today (Thursday) in Albany."
A first appearance usually is the opportunity for the accused to plead guilty or not guilty.
Sue McKinney, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Georgia, said it was too early for her to have information on the cases.
However, because of a previous dogfighting investigation by Norred & Associates Inc., an organization dedicated to humane treatment of animals, Holt some information was available.
According to Holt, the investigation across most of south Georgia, Atlanta and Alabama led to federal search warrants and charges of possession of cocaine, crack and marijuana with intent to distribute.
"We seized 15 fighting dogs, 12 vehicles, including a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro, stolen power tools, household appliances," Holt said. "We are so busy cataloging the drugs, I don't know how much we got yet. I can tell you that these people are facing 25 years to life (in prison) if found guilty on the federal charges alone."
Dogfighting charges are pending, said Chuck Simmons, an investigator for Norred & Associates, in a press release.
Simmons said, "Norred & Associates, in conjunction with the Atlanta Humane Society, is coordinating efforts to vet and rescue the dogs."
Greg Norred, CEO of the company, provides his company's time and resources for free to investigate dogfighting. The company's private, confidential dogfighting tips hotline is (877) 215-2250. The tip line offers rewards up to $5,000 for leads that end in arrest and conviction.
For more information on stopping dogfighting, go to the website helpstopdogfighting.com.