Fort Wayne man faces charges for multi-state dog-fighting network
WASHINGTON – A Fort Wayne man is among nine people charged in four states for their alleged roles in a dog-fighting network spanning from New Mexico to New Jersey. More than 60 dogs were rescued in the investigation.
The federal Animal Welfare Act makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive or transport dogs intended for use in dog fighting.
The following people are facing charges in connection with the network:
- Anthony “Monte” Gaines, 35, of Vineland, New Jersey (already in state custody on unrelated charges)
- Justin Love, 36, of Westville, New Jersey
- Lydell Harris, 30, of Vineland
- Mario Atkinson, 40, of Asbury Park, New Jersey
- Frank Nichols, 39, of Millville, New Jersey
- Tiffany Burt, 34, of Vineland
- Dajwan Ware, 43, of Fort Wayne, Indiana
- Pedro Cuellar, 46, of Willow Springs, Illinois
- Robert Arellano, 62, of 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 these acts in New Jersey and in other states.
From October 2015 through the present, the suspects are accused of setting up matches for the dogs to maul and attack each other and fight – often until one or both dogs die. They also allegedly discussed dog-fighting bloodlines, training methods, fighting techniques and the market for buying and selling dogs.
Federal agents found evidence on some of the suspects’ properties. This 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.
Medical items were also found, which may have been used instead of seeking veterinary attention.
“Dog fighting is truly an organized criminal activity, as well as a deplorable trade in the suffering of animals,” said New Jersey Assistant Attorney General John 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.”
The Humane Society of the Unites States is assisting with the care of the dogs seized by federal law enforcement.
If convicted, each defendant faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count of animal fighting charges. The investigation is ongoing.