Four area men were charged in federal court with a dog fighting conspiracy.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, William Berry, 34, of Lebanon, Derrick Courtland, 42, of Cahokia, and John Bacon, 36, and Julius Jackson, 40, of East St. Louis were charged Tuesday with violating the law in Madison and St. Clair countiess between Nov. 18, 2008, and April 18.

The offense charged carries a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

The Defendants were taken into custody and made an appearance before a Magistrate Judge in East St. Louis on Wednesday.

Preliminary hearings have been scheduled for Aug. 5 in federal court in East St. Louis.

Related charges were also filed in separate cases arising from the same investigation in the Eastern District of Missouri, the Western District of Missouri, the Southern District of Illinois and the Eastern District of Texas. Those indictments were also unsealed today following the arrests of defendants in those districts.

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