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Thu Apr 11, 2024, 10:48 AM Apr 2024

How dogfighting ring based in Maryland, Virginia tried to keep things secret

How dogfighting ring based in Maryland, Virginia tried to keep things secret

Neal Augenstein | naugenstein@wtop.com
April 11, 2024, 9:45 AM

A private group chat on the Telegram messaging app where members in Maryland and Virginia discussed methods to train dogs for fighting and ways to avoid getting caught has led to convictions for conspiracy to engage in an animal fighting venture, according to federal court records.

Earlier this week, 45-year-old Mark Joseph Rodriguez of Stafford, Virginia, who the others knew as “Slow Poke,” was found guilty of conspiracy in federal court in Alexandria. Prosecutors said he was part of the dogfighting operation that organized and held secretive dogfighting exhibitions from at least May 2015 through August 2020. ... Rodriguez is one of three defendants from Virginia convicted; an additional eight were from Maryland and one was from New Jersey.

According to court filings by prosecutors, Rodriguez organized and officiated many of the dogfights. A co-defendant described Rodriguez as “the most recognized ref on the East Coast,” charging between $100 and $200 for each competition. ... Discussions in the “DMV Board” group chat included Rodriguez’s characterizations of fights, as well as responses from those who disagreed with some of his decisions. “We just do our best to keep as fair as possible,” Rodriguez typed, according to court records. ... Rodriguez sought to ensure the discussions were kept private, according to the prosecution’s statement of facts. At one point, in the private chat group, Rodriguez warned others to avoid posts on Facebook and other public social media networks.

Rodriguez’s attorney, Ryan Campbell, argued the government failed to prove his client ever sponsored or exhibited dogs or sold, bought, possessed, trained or transported dogs for fights. ... U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema heard opening and closing statements and reviewed each side’s proposed statements of fact before she found Rodriguez guilty of the single felony count. ... Rodriguez will be sentenced on Tuesday, July 2, where he faces up to five years in prison.

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Neal Augenstein
Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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How dogfighting ring based in Maryland, Virginia tried to keep things secret (Original Post) mahatmakanejeeves Apr 2024 OP
Five years is not enough. byronius Apr 2024 #1
Special place in hell BonnieJW Apr 2024 #2
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