Four Mid-State Men Indicted for Operating an Illegal Cockfighting Enterprise
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 24, 2013|
Howard Gay, 55, of Hohenwald, Tennessee; Thomas Hardiman, 64, of Iron City, Tennessee; Walter Wooten, 57, of Leoma, Tennessee; and Phillip Heidekker, 66 of Bon Aqua, Tennessee, were indicted by a federal grand jury on January 17, 2013, and were each charged with three counts relating to their participation in a cockfighting enterprise known as the “Shiloh Club” in Hohenwald, Tennessee, announced Jerry E. Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.
The indictment charges each defendant with operating an illegal gambling business, conspiring to operate an illegal gambling business, and aiding and abetting an animal fighting venture. “Cockfighting is a shockingly vicious and cruel pursuit that is illegal in Tennessee and almost always involves illegal gambling,” said U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin. “Leaders of organizations that exist to profit on illegal gambling and other illegal enterprises should expect to face federal prosecution whenever federal statutes are violated.”
According to the indictment, the Shiloh Club had been in operation for more than a generation and had hosted cockfighting derbies every other Saturday between November 2008 and May 2009. The defendants operated and worked for the Shiloh Club and hosted and participated in cockfighting derbies that involved fights between roosters brought from Tennessee and other states.
The defendants facilitated widespread gambling on the outcome of the cockfights in the form of entry fees as well as side bets among spectators. Through the collection of admission fees and entry fees, as well as from the sale of concessions and cockfighting paraphernalia, the defendants made a significant profit. During one cockfighting derby alone, more than $12,300 in entry fees were paid to the Shiloh Club.
In May 2009 federal and state law enforcement executed a federal search warrant at the Shiloh Club and more than 200 individuals were subsequently prosecuted on state charges for being spectators at the cockfight and for gambling and other charges.
If convicted, the defendants each face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as forfeiture of property derived from or used in violation the offenses charged.
The 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 United States is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney William F. Abely.
An indictment is merely an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.