A Fort Wayne man has been charged in connection with a multi-state dog fighting ring spanning from New Mexico to New Jersey, according to federal officials.
Dajwan Ware, 43, of Fort Wayne, and seven other suspects were arrested by federal agents today. A ninth suspect was already in custody on unrelated charges, a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Six of the suspects were New Jersey residents, one was from Willow Springs, Illinois, and another from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The charges include alleged criminal acts related to transporting, delivering, buying, selling, receiving and possessing pit bull-type dogs for dog fighting, and conspiring to commit the acts in New Jersey and elsewhere in the U.S., it said.
The individuals are accused of setting up matches for the pit bull-type dogs to attack and fight each other, usually until one or both of the dogs die.
Investigators also found scarred dogs and dog-fighting paraphernalia like dog treadmills on some of the suspects properties, it said.
“Dog fighting is truly an organized criminal activity, as well as a deplorable trade in the suffering of animals,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “This case marks the beginning of a coordinated effort at the Department of Justice to meet organized dog fighting head-on with a strategic, aggressive federal response.”
If found guilty, the suspects could get up to five years in prison.
The Humane Society of the Unites States is assisting with the care of the dogs seized by federal law enforcement.
Authorities say six New Jerseyans were arrested for their roles in a multi-state dog-fighting network in which they allegedly set up matches between pit bull-type dogs trained to maul and attack.According to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, the network spanned from New Mexico to New Jersey from October 2015 through the present.
Authorities say criminal complaints have been filed against eight people, six of them residing in New Jersey, including:
Anthony “Monte” Gaines, 35, of Vineland (already in state custody on unrelated charges);
Justin Love, 36, of Westville;
Lydell Harris, 30, of Vineland;
Mario Atkinson, 40, of Asbury Park;
Frank Nichols, 39, of Millville; and
Tiffany Burt, 34, of Vineland
Authorities also arrested Dajwan Ware, 43, of Fort Wayne, Indiana; Pedro Cuellar, 46, of Willow Springs, Illinois and Robert Arellano, 62, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In a statement Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney said the defendants have been charged with “alleged criminal acts related to transporting, delivering, buying, selling, receiving, and possessing pit bull-type dogs for dog fighting ventures and conspiring to commit these acts in New Jersey and elsewhere throughout the United States.”
Authorities say the dogs were set up for matches to fight, attack and maul each other, often until one of both of the dogs died. The defendants also transported these dogs to various states for the matches, the the U.S. Attorney’s office stated.
The arrests came as part of Operation Grand Champion – named for the term used to describe dogs who have fought and had several “victories,” authorities said.
During the course of an undercover investigation, authorities say the defendants discussed, in graphic detail, how they exchanged information on dog-fighting bloodlines, training methods, fighting techniques and how to buy and sell the dogs as a way to further their venture. In addition, investigators found evidence of dog-fighting on the properties of some of the defendants.
The evidence included “scarred dogs and dogs stacked in crates; dog fighting paraphernalia, such as dog treadmills, ‘flirt’ poles used to build jaw strength and increase aggression, and animal pelts. Also found and seen were surgical instruments, syringes and other tools used to mend dogs in lieu of seeking veterinary attention,” authorities said in the complaint.
“There is no place in New Jersey – or anywhere else, for that matter – for a vicious blood sport like dog fighting,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said in a statement. “Not only is it unspeakably cruel to the animals that are raised to participate in dog fighting, but animals trained in this way can be extremely dangerous to the public.”
Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, dogfighting or training, buying, selling, possessing or transporting dogs for the purpose of fighting is punishable by up to five years in prison. The defendants could face up to five years in prison as well as a $250,000 fine for each count of animal fighting if convicted, authorities said.
According to the U.S. Attorney, the dogs that were seized by federal law enforcement officers during the arrests are in the care of the Humane Society of the United States.