21 Charged in Federal Indictment Following Takedown of Armed International Drug Trafficking and Dog Fighting Rings in Central Indiana
Written from a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana – September 7, 2023
INDIANAPOLIS- In a major operation involving more than 300 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, 21 individuals have been charged in a federal indictment encompassing offenses related to drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal firearm possession, and dog fighting. The charges come following an extensive crackdown on criminal activities, leading to the arrest of 18 individuals and the seizure of a significant cache of firearms, narcotics, cash, and numerous dogs.
The operation, executed on the morning of August 31, 2023, spanned 25 locations in Central Indiana. Eighteen suspects are now in federal custody, while two remain at large, namely Gregory Henderson Jr. and Maurice Ervin.
Law enforcement is seeking public assistance in locating fugitive Gregory Henderson Jr., offering a $5,000 reward through the FBI for information leading to his capture. Tips can be provided by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or submitting information online at www.tips.fbi.gov.
Court documents reveal that Henderson Jr. and Ramiro Rico De Leon collaborated in smuggling fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine into the United States from Mexico. Henderson served as the primary supplier to a network of lower-level dealers, including Vicencio, Foster, Taylor, Smith, Gilbert, Bennet, Easter, Eggert, and Stewart. These individuals distributed drugs in Indianapolis and neighboring communities, with Vicencio and Taylor responsible for transporting controlled substances from Kentucky to Indiana. Wire transfers facilitated the financing of drug distribution, with CashApp used for dealer payments.
Simultaneously, law enforcement uncovered an extensive dog fighting and illegal gambling ring rooted in Indianapolis. Dog owners, including Henderson Jr., Norfolk, Ervin, Sanders, Croons, Richardson III, Jones, Bronaugh, Tipler, and Johnson Jr., were identified as key players in this illicit operation. Ervin also acted as a referee in dog fights, managing the money and weighing the dogs. Handlers Tipler, Croons, and Ervin motivated the dogs to fight, while sponsors Jones and Norfolk provided venues for the fights to take place.
Several members of this group had prior convictions related to dog fighting and animal cruelty. Sanders’ home was found to have seven pit bulls in dire need of medical attention in 2001, while Norfolk was convicted of animal torture in 2005 after authorities seized four dogs from his residence. Richardson III and Ervin were repeatedly caught engaging in dog fighting activities and had multiple convictions for animal cruelty and promoting dog fighting.
This investigation, which commenced in 2022, culminated in 2023 with multiple search warrants leading to the seizure of a substantial cache of narcotics, firearms, cash, and other evidence. The seized items include 537 grams of methamphetamine, 459 grams of heroin, 667.3 grams of cocaine, 532.8 grams of fentanyl, over 230 grams of marijuana, 16 scales, 43 firearms, over $55,650.00 in cash, approximately 90 dogs (including puppies), and dog fighting training paraphernalia, such as treadmills, bite sticks, and weights.
If convicted, defendants charged with conspiracy to engage in an animal fighting venture could face up to 5 years in federal prison, while those charged with conspiracy to traffic controlled substances could face life imprisonment.
Multiple investigative agencies collaborated to make this operation and the subsequent warrant execution possible, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Indianapolis, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Indiana Gaming Commission, and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Zachary A. Myers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, expressed his gratitude to Assistant United States Attorneys Michelle P. Brady and Adam J. Eakman, who are prosecuting this case.
It is important to note that an indictment or criminal complaint represents allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.