Two Tennessee Men Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Operate Illegal Cockfighting and Gambling Business
NASHVILLE, TN—August 28, 2014—Thomas Hardiman, 66, of Iron City, Tenn. and Walter Wooten, 58, of Leoma, Tenn. pleaded guilty today to conspiring to operate an illegal gambling business and to assisting an animal fighting venture, announced David Rivera, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. These convictions relate to these defendants’ role with a cockfighting enterprise known as the “Shiloh Club,” which operated in Hohenwald, Tenn. until being shut down by Federal and state authorities In May 2009.
During a hearing today before U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp, Hardiman and Wooten admitted conspiring with each other, and with Howard Gay and Philip Heidekker, to conduct the illegal gambling business known as the Shiloh Club. Hardiman and Wooten each acknowledged that the Shiloh Club operated regular cockfighting derbies in Hohenwald, Tenn. approximately every other Saturday from November until July, and that spectators and others gambled openly on the outcome of cockfights. Each defendant also admitted that individuals traveled from out-of-state for the purpose of entering roosters in the cockfighting derbies and gambling on the outcome of the fights. Hardiman acknowledged that the Shiloh Club collected more than $12,000 in entry fees at one particular derby, and that it collected more than $100,000 from spectators and participants over the course of its 2008-09 season.
Hardiman is scheduled to be sentenced on November 21, 2014 and Wooten is scheduled for sentencing on December 15, 2014. Each faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
On April 10, 2014, Howard Gay, 56, of Hohenwald, Tenn., was convicted of three counts in connection with his role with the Shiloh Club. Specifically, Gay was found to be guilty of conspiring to operate an illegal gambling business, of operating an illegal gambling business, and of assisting an animal fighting venture. Gay is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Sharp on September 19, 2014. He also faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, as well as the forfeiture of property used in the illegal activity.
Phillip Heidekker, 67 of Bon Aqua, Tenn., was also indicted by a federal grand jury on January 17, 2013 in connection with his role with the Shiloh Club. Heidekker is currently awaiting trial. An indictment is merely an accusation and is not evidence of guilt, and Heidekker is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
This case was investigated by agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture—Office of Inspector General and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, with valuable assistance from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Williamson County Sherriff’s Department, and the 21st Judicial District Attorney General’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William F. Abely.