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New Jersey Men Charged in Multi-State Dog-Fighting Ring Involving Telegram Collective


By: Richard L. Smith 

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 have announced charges against two South Jersey men for their involvement in a dog-fighting ring.AdThis criminal activity was part of the “DMV Board,” a Telegram-based collective spanning several states dedicated to dog fighting.

The accused, Tommy J. Watson, 43, from Clayton, New Jersey, known as “Snakes,” and Johnnie Lee Nelson, 34, from Bridgeton, New Jersey, known as “Johnny,” are charged with conspiring to violate the Animal Welfare Act.

Federal officials say between August 2017 and March 2019, they were involved in fighting, training, transporting, and possessing pit bull-type dogs for dog-fighting ventures.

Watson operated “From Da Bottom Kennels,” where he and others posted bloodline information about fighting dogs and used “DMV Board” to share videos of dog fights, training sessions, and even the killing of underperforming dogs, including by hanging. Watson is specifically charged with engaging two pit bull-type dogs in a fight on December 2, 2018, and transporting another dog, Rambo, with veterinary equipment for a planned fight on March 23, 2019, which law enforcement officials successfully prevented.

Both Watson and Nelson face charges for possessing and training Rambo for the March 23 fight.

Additionally, Watson is charged with possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. Watson surrendered and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sharon A. King in Camden federal court, while Nelson was arrested on December 5, 2023, and has also appeared before Judge King.

Each count of violating the Animal Welfare Act and the conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.AdThe ammunition possession count could result in up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

This case highlights the ongoing efforts to combat animal cruelty and bring perpetrators to justice.