RICHMOND, Va. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on charges related to illegal dogfighting.
Vick and three others are charged with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for it and conducting the enterprise across state lines.
The indictment alleges that Vick and his co-defendants began a grisly dogfighting operation in early 2001 in which dogs fought to the death, or close, and losing dogs were sometimes killed by electrocution, drowning, hanging or gunshots.
Young dogs being raised to fight also were put to a test to see if they were game for fights, and those that were not were sometimes also put to death, the indictment says.
The dogfighting operation was named "Bad Newz Kennels," and that both the housing and training of the dogs, and the fights, were staged there, according to the indictment.
If convicted, Vick and the others _ Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor _ could face up to six years in prison, $350,000 in fines and restitution.
They are accused of "knowingly sponsoring and exhibiting an animal fighting venture," of conducting a business enterprise involving gambling and buying, transporting and receiving dogs for the purposes of an animal fighting venture.
Telephone messages left at the offices and home of Vick's attorney, Larry Woodward, were not immediately returned.
A woman who answered the phone at the home of Vick's mother said the family knew nothing about the charges.
The FBI and local authorities have been investigating the allegations since an April 25 drug raid at a home Vick owned in Surry County, Va.
The indictment alleges that Vick, 27, and Phillips, 28, both listed as living in Atlanta, Taylor, 34, of Hampton, and Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach, based their animal fighting venture out of Vick's property near Smithfield.
Authorities seized 66 dogs, including 55 pit bulls, and equipment commonly used in dogfighting. About half the dogs were tethered to car axles with heavy chains that allowed the dogs to get close to each other, but not to have contact, an arrangement typical for fighting dogs, according to the search warrant affidavit.
The indictment says dogfights were held at the property and dog owners brought animals from six states, as distant as New York and Texas, to fight there.
Vick initially said he was rarely at the house, had no idea it may have been used in a criminal enterprise and blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity. He also put the house up for sale and reportedly sold it quickly.
The Newport News native then stopped talking about the investigation on the advice of his lawyers, and started backing out of commitments he'd made in Virginia.
He blamed scheduling conflicts for the cancellation of his youth football camp at Christopher Newport University. The College of William & Mary announced that his spot at their football camp was being filled by Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, and a golf tournament that Vick was part of at Kingsmill in Williamsburg was postponed.
Virginia Tech was to be one benefactor of the event.
Associated Press writers Bob Lewis and Kristen Gelineau contributed to this report.