An Albuquerque man already convicted in a multi-state dogfighting ring that stretched from New Jersey to New Mexico pleaded guilty to additional charges in federal court last week, authorities said Tuesday.
Robert Arellano, 64, trafficked fighting dogs for six years, beginning in 2012, while maintaining "a collection of dog fighting videos, records, how-to materials, and photograph," U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
"Arellano meticulously recorded the dogs’ fighting pedigrees and histories, previous fights and kills, serious injuries they inflicted on other dogs or sustained themselves, and future planned fights for the dogs," the U.S. attorney said.
"He also kept veterinary drugs and equipment to shield the dogs from professional veterinary scrutiny and care, including a used I.V. line containing canine DNA, injectable horse steroids, and injectable veterinary medicines manufactured in Mexico," Carpenito said.
Arellano was among four men convicted last month of their roles in the organization a three-week trial in U.S. District Court in Trenton, where he also entered his guilty plea last Thursday.
Sentencings were scheduled for Feb. 20, 2019 in Trenton.
The quartet conspired to “sponsor and exhibit dogs in animal fighting ventures and to buy, sell, possess, train, transport, deliver and receive dogs for purposes of having the dogs participate in animal fighting ventures,” Carpenito said.
They were the final defendants prosecuted in an investigation dubbed “Operation Grand Champion” (The phrase “Grand Champion” is used by dog fighters to refer to a dog with more than five “victories”).
Earlier this year, five others who took guilty pleas in the case were sentenced to various federal prison terms.
Each must serve the entire sentence; there's no parole in the federal prison system.
“Dog fighting is vicious and cruel,” the U.S. attorney said. “And beyond the needless suffering it inflicts on animals, it exacts a toll on local animal shelters, humane organizations, and the taxpayers of New Jersey,” Carpenito said.
Ring members admitted in their pleas that they trafficked dogs with associates in New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico and elsewhere so that they could be used in fights – often to the death.
They also maintained fighting dogs and dog fighting equipment, such as treadmills, intravenous drug bags and lines, "breeding stands" used to immobilize female dogs and chains weighing up to several pounds per linear foot, Carpenito said.
Federal agents investigating the network “found canine blood on the floor, walls, and ceiling of the basement of one defendant’s residence, indicating that the area was likely used as a dog-fighting pit,” the U.S. attorney said.
“One of the defendants admitted that his dog died in his car on the way home after losing a dogfight,” he added.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, it is a federal crime to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive, or transport dogs intended for use in dogfighting.
It also violates state law in New Jersey, where a majority of the dogs used in the ring were rescued.
So far, Carpenito said, 123 dogs have been rescued as part of Operation Grand Champion and either surrendered or forfeited to the government.
Carpenito and Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations; and the FBI with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas and jury convictions.
Handling the case are Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O’Leary of Carpenito’s office in Newark and Trial Attorney Ethan Eddy of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.
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