A personal group chat on the Telegram messaging app discussing strategies to coach canine for combating and methods to keep away from getting caught has led to convictions for conspiracy to have interaction in an animal combating enterprise that was based mostly in Virginia and Maryland, in keeping with federal court docket data.

A personal group chat on the Telegram messaging app the place members in Maryland and Virginia mentioned strategies to coach canine for combating and methods to keep away from getting caught has led to convictions for conspiracy to have interaction in an animal combating enterprise, in keeping with federal court records.

Earlier this week, 45-year-old Mark Joseph Rodriguez of Stafford, Virginia, who the others knew as “Slow Poke,” was discovered responsible of conspiracy in federal court docket in Alexandria. Prosecutors stated he was a part of the dogfighting operation that organized and held secretive dogfighting exhibitions from at the least May 2015 by way of August 2020.

Rodriguez is one in every of three defendants from Virginia convicted; a further eight have been from Maryland and one was from New Jersey.

According to court docket filings by prosecutors, Rodriguez organized and officiated lots of the dogfights. A co-defendant described Rodriguez as “probably the most acknowledged ref on the East Coast,” charging between $100 and $200 for every competitors.

Discussions within the “DMV Board” group chat included Rodriguez’s characterizations of fights, in addition to responses from those that disagreed with a few of his choices. “We simply do our greatest to maintain as truthful as doable,” Rodriguez typed, in keeping with court docket data.

Rodriguez sought to make sure the discussions have been saved non-public, in keeping with the prosecution’s assertion of information. At one level, within the non-public chat group, Rodriguez warned others to keep away from posts on Facebook and different public social media networks.

Rodriguez’s lawyer, Ryan Campbell, argued the federal government didn’t show his consumer ever sponsored or exhibited canine or offered, purchased, possessed, educated or transported canine for fights.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema heard opening and shutting statements and reviewed all sides’s proposed statements of truth earlier than she discovered Rodriguez responsible of the one felony rely.

Rodriguez shall be sentenced on Tuesday, July 2, the place he faces as much as 5 years in jail.

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