On March 17, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Texarkana worked jointly with the Sevier County Sheriff's Office, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – Air and Marine Operations and other state and local partners to execute a state search warrant involving an illegal cockfighting organization.
The search warrant was the culmination of an 18-month investigation. Based on previous investigative work, agents expected 30-40 individuals to attend the event and suspected a portion of those attendees to be illegal aliens. Upon execution of the state search warrant, agents encountered an overwhelming 134 people attending the event, 120 were taken into custody. Numerous people attempted to flee the scene on foot which made the assistance of CBP Air an integral part in apprehending suspects.
HSI Texarkana special agents are in the process of positively identifying all 120 individuals, as well as checking immigration records.
Due to the unexpected number of attendees, other agents and administrative personnel from HSI offices within Arkansas traveled across the state to provide assistance. HSI Texarkana issued call-in letters and detainers as needed to those with identified immigration violations. Additionally, interviews of those arrested have resulted in several worksite enforcement leads and Worksite I-9 audits are being planned because of information and evidence gained from this event.
HSI Texarkana will seek federal criminal or administrative charges as appropriate.
“I am extremely proud of the work by Special Agent Jeremy Ridenour, Resident Agent in Charge J.P. Moseley and the quick response by the HSI personnel in Arkansas to this event,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nick Nelson. “This collaborative effort not only provided prompt federal law enforcement support to our state and local partners but it also resulted in investigative leads that align with HSI priorities. It was a win-win situation.”