Final Defendants Sentenced in Multi-State Dog Fighting Prosecution
TRENTON, N.J. – The last of 12 defendants to be convicted for their roles in multi-state dog fighting conspiracies was sentenced today, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito of the District of New Jersey and Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced.
Justin Love, 39, of Sewell, New Jersey, was sentenced to 54 months in prison. Love was previously convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate the animal fighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, six counts of possessing a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture, and two counts of purchasing and receiving a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture. He was convicted following a trial before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan, who imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.
Robert A. Elliott Sr., 50, of Millville, New Jersey, and Dajwan Ware, 46, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, were each sentenced in May 2019 to two years in prison. Both had been convicted of violating the Animal Welfare Act.
Today’s sentencing brings to a close Operation Grand Champion, a multi-jurisdictional federal dog fighting investigation which commenced in 2015 and resulted in the convictions of 12 defendants in four federal districts. The phrase “Grand Champion” is used by dog fighters to refer to a dog with more than five dog fighting “victories.” As a result of the investigation, 113 dogs were rescued and either surrendered or forfeited to the government
“Dog fighting exacts a steep toll on animals, local animal shelters, charitable humane organizations, and the taxpayers of New Jersey,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “We applaud our local and federal partners who worked so tirelessly to investigate this case and bring the offenders to justice.”
“Our justice system will not tolerate the torment and death of animals in the fighting ring, as the sentencings in this case demonstrate,” Assistant Attorney General Clark said. “Although this landmark case is over, we continue to place a high priority on pursuing and prosecuting illegal animal fighting ventures across the country.”
According to documents filed in these cases, statements made in court and the evidence at trial:
The defendants and their associates regularly fought dogs – including regularly to the death – and repeatedly trafficked in dogs with other dog fighters across several states so that those dogs could be used in dog fights. They also maintained significant numbers of fighting dogs and substantial dog fighting equipment such as dog treadmills, intravenous drug bags and lines, and “breeding stands” used to immobilize female dogs. At Love’s residence, canine blood was found on the floor, walls, and ceiling of the basement, and Love had tried to set up a “class” for dog fighters to practice administering I.V. fluids to injured dogs, using live dogs as their practice subjects. Another defendant who previously pleaded guilty admitted that following a fight, his dog died in his car on the way home.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Sheridan sentenced Love to three years of supervised release and fined him $9,000.
The government was represented in the Trenton proceedings by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O’Leary of the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Ethan Eddy of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section. The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, and the FBI.