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NJ: Vineland, Millville men admit dogfighting crimes


Vineland, Millville men admit dogfighting crimes
Staff reports Published 5:33 p.m. ET Aug. 11, 2017 | Updated 6:04 p.m. ET Aug. 11, 2017

TRENTON - Three Cumberland County men have pleaded guilty to their roles in an illegal dogfighting network in which animals were transported across the country so they could battle “to the death,” authorities announced Friday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said guilty pleas were entered Thursday and Friday in federal court by Frank Nichols, 40, of Millville; Anthony “Monte” “Whiteboy” Gaines, 36, of Vineland; and Lydell “Sinn” Harris, 32, of Vineland. Two other defendants — Pedro Cuellar, 47, of Willow Springs, Ill., and Mario Atkinson, 42, of Asbury Park — also have pleaded guilty, officials said.

“Justice is being delivered in these cases,” acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood said. “Ending animal fighting ventures and other inhumane practices depends upon the hard work of investigators and lawyers like those who brought these cases, and will also require continued partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.”

The defendants were part of a vicious dogfighting ring in which pit bulls were trafficked in New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois and New Mexico, federal authorities said.

At their homes in South Jersey, they used equipment such as treadmills, heavy chains, “breeding stands” that immobilize female dogs, and intravenous drug bags to prepare the animals for combat, according to court records.

“Agents 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 dogfighting pit,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. One of the men told authorities a dog died in his car on the way home after losing a fight.
The animals fought under names ranging from Bubbles to Death’s Angel. After one fight victory, Harris posted on the website “Peds Online” that his dog Tee Tee had “smoked” her opponent, authorities said.

Prosecutors say the case is part of Operation Grand Champion, a nationwide crackdown that has rescued 98 dogs so far. The phrase Grand Champion is used by dogfighters for animals with more than five victories.

The Humane Society of the United States is working with authorities to help bring hope to the surviving abused dogs as they recover, Wood said.
Nichols, Gaines and Cuellar all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport, deliver and receive dogs used for an animal-fighting venture. Nichols also admitted to possession of a stolen firearm, and Gaines admitted to possessing animals for dogfighting. Harris and Atkinson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sponsor or exhibit a dog for animal fighting, and possession of a dog to be used for fighting.

The defendants face potential prison terms and six-figure fines when they’re sentenced later this year.