SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Wendell Allan Strickland, 67, of Swainsboro, pled guilty to charges linked to a cockfighting operation on his property.
Strickland pled guilty to two counts of Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture; two counts of Conducting an Illegal Gambling Business; and one count of Possession and Transport of an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture, all felonies; and one misdemeanor charge of Attending an Animal Fighting Venture.
A multi-agency criminal investigation determined Strickland operated a cockfighting venue called The Red Barn on his Swainsboro property. Multiple law enforcement agencies raided the site in September 2020, seizing cockfighting gear and arresting Strickland.
According to investigators, cockfights were held at The Red Barn on alternating weekend schedules with those at Little Sunset, a larger venue in nearby Midville owned by William Shannon Scott, 49. Officers arrested Scott on federal charges as part of Operation Sunrise, a multi-agency raid of a cockfighting tournament at his property in June 2020 in which nearly 200 possible defendants were identified. Scott pled guilty to Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture and is awaiting sentencing.
A third cockfighting venue owner, Lanier Augustus Hightower Jr., 65, of Lincolnton, Ga., also pled guilty to Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture and is awaiting sentencing. Hightower and more than three dozen other defendants were indicted after a December 2019 raid during a cockfighting tournament on his farm.
Both Scott and Hightower face forfeiture of their farms, along with up to five years in prison, substantial financial penalties, and up to three years of supervised release. Most of the other defendants charged in the cases have been sentenced after entering guilty pleas.
Strickland faces a possible statutory penalty of up to five years in prison and significant financial penalties, followed by up to three years of supervised release.