The dogs fought and died on a bloodstained piece of carpet.

I was confused by the word “hooked” as I read through court documents unsealed this week detailing what federal prosecutors said was a long-running dogfighting ring. Then I realized it describes a fight and how an animal plunges its teeth into an opponent after charging onto the carpet square. Combat sometimes lasts more than an hour.

Dogs are called “joints.” Their owners are called “dogs.”

Winning dogs, covered in fresh blood and old scars, are sent back into metal cages. Losers who survive the fight are executed using jumper cables.

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All this was for the amusement of a group of monsters running a dogfighting network across Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to a 10-count federal indictment.

“That’s what I’m talking about, college boy. Show ‘em what you do, baby. Good boy. Goin’ put you on something, motherfu***r.”

That was the voice of Frederick Douglass Moorefield Jr., then a high-ranking Pentagon communications official captured in a video seized by investigators, according to a lengthy affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court for Maryland. The FBI agent who wrote the affidavit believes the Anne Arundel County man was promoting one of his dogs.

“Good boy, Freeze. My man. Good boy.”

Charges handed up by a grand jury against Moorefield and an accomplice detail their alleged roles in a ring that operated via encrypted text messages and a private message board called “DMV Board.”

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Prosecutors just don’t explain how this could have gone on so long.

Frederick D. Moorefield Jr., who served as deputy chief information officer for command, control, and communications, for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, has been charged with facilitating a dog fighting ring.
Frederick D. Moorefield Jr., who served as deputy chief information officer for command, control, and communications for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, has been charged with facilitating a dogfighting ring. (Department of Defense)

At work, Moorefield was deputy chief information officer for command, control and communications for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

He was a trusted civilian, overseeing $4.3 billion in research into using the radio frequencies that carry wireless signals for national defense, according to the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. He’s been working on sophisticated technological issues for 35 years, first at an Air Force lab and then for a succession of federal agencies.

A Pentagon spokesperson would only say Monday that officials were aware of the charges and Moorefield was no longer in the workplace.

At play, prosecutors said, Moorefield used his knowledge to keep his obsession with violence hidden for years, encouraging others to “Use Telegram not WhatsApp because telegram is encrypted.” The FBI, using warrants for cloud searches and ring members who turned on their associates, found him anyway.

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“The one on the Emill is hooked into the Philly boys called 425 kennels,” he wrote in a message to another ring member with attached videos of dogs on treadmills, according to the affidavit. “The one on the slat is your bitch.”

Moorefield’s LinkedIn page, full of professional accomplishments and praise for fellow DOD executives, has been trashed with hostile wishes as details of his arrest spread.

“It would be great to see you hang,” one commenter wrote.

People keep secrets. A double life, though, is hard to understand.

Last year an Annapolis couple — a Navy nuclear engineer and a private school humanities teacher — pleaded guilty to espionage, admitting they tried to sell propulsion secrets to a foreign government.

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But how could a high-ranking official working in the Pentagon hide his blood-soaked hobby for 20 years?

In the lengthy affidavit unsealed last week, FBI Special Agent Ryan C. Daly laid out the grisly details.

Moorefield bred the animals, “trained” them in the basement of his home in Arnold, transported them to secretive fight locations and gambled thousands on individual fights, according to the affidavit. He set up and refereed fights. When two dogs died in 2018, someone put their bodies in a plastic bag and dumped them in Annapolis.

The bag contained mail with Moorefield’s address.

Anne Arundel County Animal Control received multiple complaints about Moorefield and his barber, 49-year-old Mario Damon Flythe of Glen Burnie, according to Daly. Some date back to 2008.

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That means somewhere along the way, someone decided not to pursue a local investigation, said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, the Maryland director of the Humane Society of the United States.

“That’s the tragedy for the animals and the people,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Anne Arundel County Police, which oversees the county animal control agency, said it was a strategic decision.

“Our agency became aware early on in the investigation that this case would be handled by federal investigators,” spokesperson Marc Limansky wrote in an email. “Our agency assisted them throughout the investigation.”

For five more years, the dogfighting continued as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FBI began to identify members of the DMV.

Nine dogfighters were indicted in Virginia last year, and eight have pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators. Some members of the ring have yet to be identified.

Moorefield may have been a key target of the investigation and its culmination.

According to the affidavit, he was still fighting his dogs in May, and still relying on what he thought were secret Telegram chats to search for fights until the FBI knocked on his door on Sept. 6.

Moorefield’s house is at the end of a long concrete driveway in a quiet neighborhood off busy Ritchie Highway, a neat, yellow-and-brown split foyer indistinguishable from thousands of other homes across Anne Arundel County. A black Cadillac Escalade was parked in the driveway Wednesday afternoon, a doghouse visible under some bramble in the backyard.

No one answered the door, and a lawyer Moorefield identified in court documents could not be reached for comment. Neither could Flythe nor an attorney listed for him.

Some neighbors said they saw the dawn raid. It swept up Moorefield, five dogs, a cache of dogfighting gear and cell phones, the FBI agent wrote. A simultaneous raid picked up seven more dogs at Flythe’s home.

Few knew much about Moorefield other than what they had read in the many news accounts of his arrest. Some said they had seen him walking a dog with a heavy choke collar, and now wonder if it was actually several similar-looking dogs. Others said they had never seen him with a dog.

Kim Stewart has lived on the same cul-de-sac for 30 years, and said her now-adult sons once played in the house with Moorefield’s sons. She recently saw Moorefield when he said hello at a local grocery store.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are.’ It had been so long since I’d seen him,” she said. “I think my sons may have been the only people in the neighborhood to go inside the house.”

They couldn’t have seen what FBI agents found — a basement horror chamber. Daly listed barred cages, weighted collars and chains, performance-enhancing drugs, jumper cables that plugged into an electrical outlet, artificial insemination tools, suspected blood on the walls, and a roll of gray carpet with brown stains.

Some neighbors wanted to know why Moorefield allegedly was able to fight dogs for so long, why he wasn’t caught sooner. Daly’s affidavit alleges there is evidence of his involvement back to 2002.

That was four years after Moore left the Air Force Research Lab in Ohio and bought his home in Arnold. It was before he declared bankruptcy, citing tax and credit card debts, according to court records.

It was six years before he started his climb up the rungs of defense jobs by becoming director of strategic planning at the Air Force Spectrum Management Office at Fort Meade, according to his LinkedIn page.

“The thing is, they found those two dead dogs in a plastic bag with his mail in it in 2018,” neighbor Frank Sopato said. “He’s a high-ranking DOD official. What do they know about him?”

Federal employees undergo investigations for security clearances and sometimes for sensitive jobs. But those are intended to ferret out threats to national security — are you selling secrets to a foreign government or vulnerable to being coerced into doing it?

Lifestyle checks, which ask about breaking laws or consuming drugs, are far less common after you obtain a security clearance.

Polygraph exams, the favorite tool of TV dramas for uncovering evildoers, generally don’t happen for senior employees. The Department of Defense spells out when they can be used, and national security is the worry rather than dogfighting.

It seems so unthinkable to even ask: Are you raising dogs for the sick enjoyment of their mutilation and death?

Are you a sadist?

Bevan-Dangel, the Humane Society director, said animal fighting is on the rise. Maybe it’s all the dogs adopted during COVID lockdowns, or a broader willingness to tear everything apart.

In August, a Calvert County man was sentenced to four years in prison after police found 12 dogs in his home and some of the same equipment seized from Moorefield’s and Flythe’s homes. In 2022, a Harford County man was sentenced to six years after being convicted of running a cockfighting operation.

A spokesperson for the Anne Arundel County state’s attorney said her office has prosecuted 130 cases involving 550 charges of animal cruelty. One involved dogfighting and resulted in a guilty plea.

Days before his arrest, Moorefield lost a bet on a match he couldn’t attend, according to the affidavit, which described the following exchange.

“Yo that mutt quit 50mins,” an associate nicknamed Big Goon wrote in a text.

“Fuck these dogs,” Moorefield wrote.

Big Goon then shared a video showing a dog “quitting” a fight by refusing to come into the “box.”

“I ain’t betting on nobodies dogs but mine lol,” Moorefield added.

If convicted of possessing, training, or transporting animals for an animal fighting operation, Moorefield and Flythe face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison

Federal law spells out that even if convicted, Moorefield most likely will keep his retirement benefits. Refusing them would require a board of inquiry and a determination that his government service was dishonorable.

At 62, he could retire and begin receiving them before trial.

rick.hutzell@thebaltimorebanner.com

Rick Hutzell is the Annapolis columnist for The Baltimore Banner. He writes about what's happening today, how we got here and we're we're going next. The former editor of Capital Gazette, he led the newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 2018 mass shooting in its newsroom. 

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