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      Hannibal man facing federal charges in connection with dog fighting

      The U.S. District Court of Missouri's Eastern District have indicted five men in connection to what it calls the largest dogfighting operation in U.S. History.

      One of the men is from Hannibal.

      A news release states 38-year-old Michael Morgan from Hannibal, also known as "Missouri Mike" was arrested for a number of offenses.

      They include knowingly buying, selling, delivering and training Pit Bull Terriers solely for the purpose of animal fighting.

      The men are accused of serving as referees, spectators and time keepers during the fights, not to mention participating in illegal gambling on the fights.

      The suspects also are accused of destroying and disposing dogs who lost in the fighting competitions or didn't perform aggressively enough.

      These Missouri arrests are believed to be a small part of a larger dog fighting ring.

      It's believed to have spanned five states, with arrests in Illinois, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma as well.

      If convicted, the Missouri men face a maximum penalty of five years in prison for each count and fines up to $250,000

      The following is a news release from the U.S. Attorney's office of Eastern Missouri located in St. Louis


      St. Louis, MO: Officers from multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies arrested five Missouri men and seized more than150 Pit Bull Terriers in an early morning raid on several locations involved in dog fighting ventures, Acting United States Attorney Michael W. Reap announced today.

      The U.S. Attorney also filed motions seeking to take legal ownership of the dogs and place the animals in the care and custody of the Humane Society of Missouri. Under federal law, the government can take custody of any animals engaged in any animal fighting venture. Additionally, the U.S. Attorney is seeking a court order requiring the defendants to reimburse the Humane Society of Missouri for all costs incurred for care of the animals while the animals are in their custody.

      According to the indictment between January 2008 and June 2009, Michael Morgan, Robert Hackman, Teddy Kiriakidis, Ronald Creach and Jack Ruppel were involved in animal fighting ventures and dog fighting competitions. They established and ran various kennel operations to purchase, breed, train, condition, and develop Pit Bull Terriers for participation in the animal fighting ventures, Robert Hackman operated Shake Rattle and Roll Kennel, Jack Ruppel operated Ozark Hillbillys Kennel, Michael Morgan a/k/a Missouri Mike operated Cannibal Kennel, and Ronald Creach operated Hard Goodbye Kennel.

      The indictment alleges that the defendants routinely inhumanely abandoned, destroyed, and otherwise disposed of Pit Bull Terriers that lost fighting competitions, did not perform aggressively enough, or that became injured, wounded, or disabled as a result of participating in an animal fighting ventures.

      In addition to the indictment unsealed today in the Eastern District of Missouri, 21 defendants were also charged in separate cases arising from the same investigation in the Western District of Missouri, the Southern District of Illinois and the Eastern District of Texas.

      Headed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture TMs Office of Inspector General, this dog fighting investigation is the latest in a series of major animal fighting investigations conducted throughout the country since the passage of the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, signed into law in May 2007, which makes it a felony to participate in the blood sport.

      As evidenced through this and other recent investigations, animal fighting activities exist throughout the state and the country, said Special Agent-in-Charge James L. Mendenhall. The OIG will continue to pursue substantive allegations of animal fighting, and is committed to work in concert with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to that end.

      We are pleased with the success of this lengthy and thorough investigation, stated Colonel James F. Keathley, Superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Undercover officers from within the Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control along with the other state and federal agencies should be commended for their dedication and continued hard work in our concerted efforts to stop animal fighting.

      The Humane Society of Missouri provided initial information that led to this investigation. During the course of the investigation they also cared for animals involved when possible, and they are presently designated to provide continuing care for the seized dogs, said Acting United States Attorney Michael Reap.

      Forcing a dog to fight to its death is not a sport, said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the St. Louis office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). There is nothing respectable about encouraging two animals to torture and dismember each other. Individuals who participate in dog fighting claim to care for the animals, but they don't hesitate to electrocute their helpless dog once it loses a fight and can no longer provide any financial benefit.

      Indicted in the Eastern District of Missouri:

      Michael Morgan, a/k/a Missouri Mike, 38, Hannibal, MO, on two felony counts of conspiracy to commit federal offenses and one felony count of prohibitions against animal fighting ventures;

      Robert Hackman, 55, Foley, MO, two felony counts of conspiracy to commit federal offenses and two felony counts of prohibitions against animal fighting ventures;

      Teddy Kiriakidis, a/k/a Teddy Bogart, 50, Leasburg, MO, one felony count of conspiracy to commit federal offenses;

      Ronald Creach, 34, Leslie, MO, one felony count of conspiracy to commit federal offenses; and

      Jack Ruppel, 35 Eldon, MO, town, two felony counts of conspiracy to commit federal offenses and two felony counts of prohibitions against animal fighting ventures.

      If convicted, each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.

      Reap commended the work on the case by the Missouri State Highway Patrol , the Humane Society of Missouri, the United States Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Drake, Charlie Birmingham and Julie Wright who are handling the cases for the U.S. Attorney TMs Office.

      The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

      Click here for the full indictment court papers.

      The following is a news release from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

      July 8, 2009

      Largest Dogfighting Operation in U.S. History Raided by State & Federal Agencies with Assistance from ASPCA ASPCA Dispatches Forensics, Vet Care and Behavior Evaluation Teams to Sites in Missouri, Illinois

      NEW YORK "What is believed to be the largest dogfighting operation in U.S. history was raided early Wednesday in an effort that included federal and state agencies, with the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) assisting.

      At the request of the Humane Society of Missouri, the ASPCA, along with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, United States Department of Agriculture TMs Office of the Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, The U.S. Marshals Service and the United States Attorney, is collaborating in the rescue, veterinary care, and forensics evidence collection of dogs associated with multiple suspected Dogfighting operations. The ASPCA will also be assisting in behavior evaluations of the dogs.

      The dogfighting operation is believed to have spanned five states and included arrests in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma. Dogs are being safely transported to a secure facility under the direction of the Humane Society of Missouri Animal Cruelty Task Force, where they will be cared for until final disposition is determined by the United States District Court.

      The ASPCA is determined to protect its nation TMs pets from dogfighting and other forms of brutality said ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres. Animal cruelty cannot be tolerated, and we are proud to lend our support to federal and local agencies to ensure that these abusers are brought to justice.

      The ASPCA is collecting evidence for the prosecution of the criminal case, as well as lending the services of its special forensic cruelty investigation team, comprised of disaster animal rescuers, field service investigators, and Dr. Melinda Merck, the nation TMs premier forensic veterinarian. More than a dozen responders from the ASPCA TMs Disaster Response team are in the field, along with the ASPCA TMs Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit, a critical tool in the collection and processing of evidence at crime scenes. The CSI unit brings both state-of-the-art forensics tools and expertise to crime scenes and is outfitted with medical equipment tailored for animal patients.

      The ASPCA TMs Mobile Animal CSI unit is an important component in the effort against animal cruelty, said Laura Maloney, Senior Vice President of Anti-Cruelty Initiatives for the ASPCA. This technology allows the ASPCA to strengthen cases against animal abusers and seek justice for their victims.