South Jersey Men Charged in Multi-State Dog-Fighting Ring

Department of Justice

NEWARK, NJ — Two South Jersey men were charged earlier this week for their alleged involvement in a multi-state dog-fighting ring, according to 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.

Tommy J. Watson, known as “Snakes,” 43, from Clayton and Johnnie Lee Nelson, known as “Johnny,” 34, from Bridgeton, are accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act. They allegedly participated in fighting, training, transporting, and possessing pit bull-type dogs for dog-fighting ventures from August 2017 to March 2019.

Watson is said to have run a dog-fighting operation called “From Da Bottom Kennels,” which posted bloodline information of fighting dogs online. He also allegedly used a Telegram-based collective known as the “DMV Board” to share videos of live dog fights, training sessions, and the killing of underperforming dogs, including by hanging.

In separate counts, Watson is charged with fighting two pit bull-type dogs on December 2, 2018. He is also accused of transporting a third dog, Rambo, along with homemade veterinary equipment, to Upper Deerfield Township for a dog fight on March 23, 2019. However, law enforcement officials intervened, preventing the fight. At the scene, two other dogs that had already fought were found hidden in a car. Both Watson and Nelson face charges of possessing and training Rambo for the canceled fight.

Additionally, Watson, a convicted felon, is charged with possession of ammunition.

Watson surrendered to authorities and is set to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sharon A. King in Camden federal court. Nelson was arrested on December 5, 2023, and has already appeared before Judge King.

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If found guilty, the Animal Welfare Act counts and the conspiracy charge carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The ammunition possession charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Homeland Security Investigations Newark, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, and the FBI led the investigation into the charges. The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office also assisted.

Deputy Chief Desiree Grace, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen P. O’Leary, and Senior Trial Attorney Ethan Eddy are representing the government in this case.

The charges and allegations are merely accusations at this stage, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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