- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Nine people in four states have been charged with taking part in an interstate dog-fighting ring.

The charges announced Wednesday by federal prosecutors in New Jersey stem from an undercover investigation.

Authorities say the ring has operated since last October. Six of the people charged are from New Jersey, while the others are from Illinois, Indiana and New Mexico.

Eight of them were in custody Wednesday. Each person charged could face several years in prison if convicted of a role in the ring.

Prosecutors said the charges include conspiracy and criminal acts related to transporting, delivering, buying, selling, receiving and possessing pit bull-type dogs for dog-fighting ventures.

Evidence of dog-fighting ventures, including scarred dogs and dogs stacked in crates, was found or seen on some of the defendants’ properties, prosecutors said. Dog-fighting paraphernalia, including animal pelts, dog treadmills and poles used to build the dogs’ jaw strength and increase their aggression, also were found at the sites.

This case is part of Operation Grand Champion, a coordinated effort across numerous federal judicial districts to combat organized dog fighting. The term “grand champion” is used by dog fighters to refer to a dog with more than five fighting wins.

“There is no place in New Jersey - or anywhere else, for that matter - for a vicious blood sport like dog fighting,” said Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. “Not only is it unspeakably cruel to the animals that are raised to participate in dog fighting, but animals trained in this way can be extremely dangerous to the public.”

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