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Press Release

New Mexico Man Sentenced To Four Years In Prison For Role In Multi-State Dog Fighting Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. – A New Mexico man was sentenced today to 48 months in prison for his role in a multi-state dog fighting conspiracy, 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.

Robert Arellano, 65, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was convicted Oct. 16, 2018, of one felony count of conspiracy to violate the animal fighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and two felony counts of selling, transporting, and delivering dogs intended for use in an animal fighting venture. Arellano also pleaded guilty to three felony counts of possessing a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture in a related federal case in New Mexico that was consolidated with his New Jersey case for sentencing. Judge Peter G. Sheridan presided over the trial and imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.

Three other defendants were convicted as part of the same jury trial; two defendants will be sentenced on May 29, 2019, and the third defendant will be sentenced on May 30, 2019.

“Dog fighting is vicious and cruel,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “Beyond the needless suffering it inflicts on animals, it exacts a toll on local animal shelters, humane organizations, and the taxpayers of New Jersey. As today’s sentencing shows, if you fight dogs in New Jersey, you will face prosecution and imprisonment.”

“Our justice system will not tolerate the torment and death of animals in the fighting ring, as this week’s sentencing proceedings demonstrate,” Assistant Attorney General Clark said. “In our Division, we will continue to place a high priority on pursuing and prosecuting illegal animal fighting ventures across the country.”

According to documents filed in this case and related cases and the evidence at trial:

Arellano and his associates regularly fought dogs – including to the death – and repeatedly trafficked in dogs with other dog fighters across several states for the purpose of dog fighting. Arellano and the other defendants also maintained significant numbers of fighting dogs and substantial dog fighting equipment, such as dog treadmills, intravenous drug bags and lines, “breeding stands” used to immobilize female dogs, and chains weighing up to several pounds per linear foot. A defendant who pleaded guilty to charges in a related case admitted that his dog died in his car on the way home after a dog fight. Evidence at trial showed that dog deaths from fighting were a common outcome. Another defendant convicted at trial attempted to set up a “class” for dog fighters to practice administering I.V. fluids to injured dogs, using live dogs as their practice subjects.

“The provisions of the Animal Welfare Act were designed to protect animals from being used in illegal fighting ventures, which often entail other forms of criminal activity involving drugs, firearms and gambling,” Special Agent in Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General said. “Together with the Department of Justice, animal fighting is an investigative priority for USDA-OIG, and we will work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and assist in the criminal prosecution of those who participate in animal fighting ventures.”

In addition to the prison term, Judge Sheridan sentenced Arellano to three years of supervised release.

This case is part of Operation Grand Champion, a coordinated effort across numerous federal judicial districts to combat organized dog fighting. The phrase “Grand Champion” is used by dog fighters to refer to a dog with more than five dog fighting “victories.” To date, eleven defendants from five states have been convicted and sentenced to a total of 164 months in prison as part of Operation Grand Champion. Additionally, 113 dogs have been rescued, and either surrendered or forfeited to the government.

The government is represented 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 is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Defense counsel: Samuel Bregman Esq., Albuquerque, New Mexico

Updated February 27, 2024

Animal Welfare
Press Release Number: 19-092