ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WRIC) — A Woodbridge man, alongside a man from Camp Springs, Maryland, pleaded guilty this week to conspiring to engage in dogfighting and advertising dogfighting on the Internet as part of a private messaging group.

According to court documents, from at least May 2015 through August 2020, Derek Garcia, 41, Ricardo Thorne, 52, and several others from Virginia, D.C. and Maryland were part of a private messaging app group called The DMV Board, or just “The Board,” which was dedicated to discussing many topics related to dogfighting. In the group, members would talk about how to train fighting dogs, discuss killing dogs that lost fights, exchange videos about dogfighting and arrange and coordinate dog fights. The DMV Board would also share media reports about dogfighting conspirators who had been caught by law enforcement, and would discuss how they could avoid being caught themselves.

Between 2015 and 2019, Thorne used the group to make several claims about his involvement in dogfighting. Thorne told another member of the group that he made a lot of money from charging admission to dog fights, which he held at a warehouse in D.C. Thorne also posted in the group that his “Darkside Kennels” had been around for over 20 years.

Thorne would also use the group to brag about dogs he used or money he had won in dogfighting. According to court documents, Thorne posted to the DMV Board group that the most he had ever won in one fight was $15,000, and he also said that he had a fighting dog that killed six other dogs in less than a year. 

On July 30, 2019, law enforcement came to Thorne’s home and found he had dogfighting paraphernalia and nine dogs tied up in his backyard. Many of the dogs had scarring patterns and lacerations consistent with dogfighting. Thorne denied any involvement in dogfighting and said he did not know there were nine dogs in his backyard.

Garcia also frequently used the group to discuss dogfighting. In December 2016, Garcia sold a fighting dog for $1,700 to another person involved in dogfighting. Near the end of June 2020, Garcia posted in the DMV Board group about a dog fight he had handled in which his dog won after his opponent’s dog stopped moving at 32 minutes into the fight.

Garcia tried to protect members of the DMV Board group from being caught by law enforcement. In March 2017, after the arrest of another person involved in the fights, Garcia told one of his co-conspirators how to delete messages in the DMV Board group.

In August, Garcia, Thorne and four others were indicted for a dogfighting conspiracy involving the DMV Board group. Earlier this month, three other conspirators pleaded guilty to the same dogfighting conspiracy.

Garcia and Thorne are both scheduled to be sentenced on March 7, 2023. Each faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.