Operation Grand Champion Comes to a Close with Final Defendants Sentenced

The last of 12 defendants have been sentenced this week for their role in a multi-state dog fighting conspiracy. These sentences mark the end of Operation Grand Champion, a multi-jurisdictional federal dog fighting investigation which began in 2015 and resulted in 12 convictions.

The final round of sentences for this operation included:

  • Justin Love, convicted of one felony count of conspiracy to violate the animal fighting prohibition of the federal Animal Welfare Act, six felony counts of possessing a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture, and two felony counts of purchasing and receiving a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture. Love was sentenced to 54 months in prison.
  • Robert Elliot, convicted of one felony count of conspiracy to violate the animal fighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and 12 felony counts of possessing a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture. Elliot was sentenced to 24 months in prison.
  • Dajwan Ware, convicted of one felony count of conspiracy to violate the animal fighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Ware was sentenced to 24 months in prison.

According to the Department of Justice release, the defendants regularly fought dogs to their death and repeatedly trafficked dogs across several states for use in dog fights. They also were found with significant numbers of fighting dogs and fighting dog equipment such as dog treadmills, intravenous drug bags and lines, and “breeding stands” used to immobilize female dogs.

Love’s residence contained canine blood on the floor, walls, and ceiling of the basement. Love apparently attempted to set up a “class” for dog fighters to practice administering I.V. fluids to their injured dogs. The class used live dogs as practice subjects.

“Animal cruelty is a heinous crime that deserves our ultimate condemnation and serious legal consequences for those who engage in it for ‘sport’ and/or profit,” said Brian Michaels, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, Newark. “As an agency, we are proud to work with our partners to identify, investigate and assist our partners to rout out those who engage in this despicable, inhumane, and illegal practice.”

Operation Grand Champion resulted in 12 convictions, with defendants sentenced to a total of 315 months in prison. 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.

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division noted, “Although the one chapter represented by this landmark series of cases has now closed, we will continue to place a high priority on pursuing and prosecuting similar illegal animal fighting ventures across the country… Our justice system will not tolerate the torment and death of animals in the fighting ring[.]”


TAKEDOWN UPDATE: In April, FEDagent covered the conviction of Candace Marie Claiborne, a former State Department employee accused of spying for the Chinese government and misleading investigators. This week, Claiborne was sentenced to 40 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $40,000 for conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Posted in The Takedown

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