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Press Release

Two South Jersey Men Charged for Roles in Dog Fighting Ring

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

NEWARK, N.J. – Two South Jersey men have been charged for their participation in a dog-fighting ring that involved the “DMV Board,” a Telegram-based dog fighting collective, spanning several states, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger and Assistant Attorney General Todd S. Kim of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced today.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Tommy J. Watson, aka “Snakes,” 43, of Clayton, New Jersey, and Johnnie Lee Nelson, aka “Johnny,” 34, of Bridgeton, New Jersey, conspired with others to violate the Animal Welfare Act, by fighting, training, transporting, and possessing pit bull-type dogs in dog-fighting ventures, from August 2017 through March 2019. Watson and others conducted a dog-fighting operation known as “From Da Bottom Kennels,” which posted bloodline information of fighting dogs owned by the kennel on the dog fighting website “Peds Online.” Watson and others also used the “DMV Board” to transmit videos of live dog fights, of training dogs for fights, and of the killing of underperforming fighting dogs, including by hanging.

In separate Animal Welfare Act counts, Watson is charged with fighting two pit bull-type dogs in dog fights on December 2, 2018. He is also charged with transporting a third dog, Rambo, along with do-it-yourself veterinary equipment, such as a skin stapler, to a location on Center Road in Upper Deerfield Township, New Jersey, for a dog fight on March 23, 2019. Law  enforcement officials prevented that dog fight from occurring. At that location, law enforcement discovered, concealed in a car, two other dogs that had already fought. Both Watson and Nelson are charged with possessing and training Rambo for the March 23 fight.

Watson is also charged with one count of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.

Watson surrendered today and is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sharon A. King in Camden federal court. Nelson was arrested Dec. 5, 2023, and appeared before Judge King.

The Animal Welfare Act counts, and the count of conspiracy to violate that statute, each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The count of being a felon in possession of ammunition carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger and Assistant Attorney General Kim credited special agents of Homeland Security Investigations Newark, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Alfonso; the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, under the supervision of Acting Special Agent in Charge Charmeka Parker; and the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs in Philadelphia, with the investigation leading to the charges. They also thanked detectives with the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae, for their assistance with the investigation.

The government is represented by Deputy Chief Desiree Grace and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen P. O’Leary of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Senior Trial Attorney Ethan Eddy of the U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

Updated December 11, 2023

Topic
Environmental Justice
Press Release Number: 23-365