ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Editor's Note: The above video was published in Oct. of 2021. It highlights another dogfighting ring.
On Thursday, a Forestville, Maryland man pleaded guilty in court to conspiring to engage in dog fighting.
According to court documents, from at least May 2015 through August 2020, Laron Mecco "Frog" West, 46, and others from the DMV area communicated using the messaging app Telegram. Prosecutors say they had a private group, which they generally called "The DMV Board" or "The Board," where discussed training fighting dogs, exchanged videos about dogfighting, and arranged and coordinated dog fights, away from the view of police.
Members of the DMV Board also used the app to compare methods of killing dogs that lost fights, as well as to share media reports about others who had been caught by police and talk about ways to minimize the likelihood that they would be caught themselves.
In June 2017, according to court documents, West posted on the DMV Board that "we kill" fighting dogs that quit. In October 2018, West posted on the Board that dogs that failed to fight aggressively enough had been killed. West wrote that he “loves to throw [the dogs] over the bridge and into the water.”
Court documents further reflect that, in March 2018, West drove Charles Edward Williams, III, of Capitol Heights, Maryland to a warehouse in Philadelphia. This is where Williams entered his dog into a dog fight attended by dozens of people. In November of the same year, Williams warned members of The DMV Board to be sure to confirm the death of the dogs that they try to kill upon losing a fight.
In April 2019, Williams and coconspirator Michael Roy Hilliard, 37, of Fort Washington, drove to Bunnlevel, North Carolina, with a dog belonging to Williams, so that he could enter the dog in a dog fight. The fight lasted under 10 minutes before being won by the dog belonging to Williams. Another person is said to have shot and killed the losing dog in this fight.
In August, authorities indicted West, Williams, Hilliard, and four others for a dog fighting conspiracy involving the "DMV Board."
Earlier this month, Williams and Hilliard pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy as West. Trial for three of the remaining defendants is set for Dec. 6.
West, Williams, and Hilliard are each scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 21, 2023. Each faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
"I think we're seeing a lot more a lot more law enforcement, raiding these fights in progress or raiding these kennels" said Janette Reever, the program manager of animal crimes and investigations with the Humane Society International.
Reever says this is likely because "more and more law enforcement are becoming trained to recognize the signs and also that the laws have strengthened in many states. We're starting to see they're able to take action where as before they couldn't take action".
She tells WUSA9 it's pit-bull type dogs that are often used in these dog fighting rings.
Reever says "if you see that there are large crowds of people and you see maybe in the beginning, you hear dogs barking then it's quiet, but then you hear a bunch of cheering, that is also a sign of dog fighting."
"A misconception is that the dogs will scream and bark and cry throughout the fight when in all actuality what you will typically hear in the beginning, is the dogs will be excited they'll bark but then you'll just hear the betting that goes on" said Reever.
If you see any of those signs she recommends that you call police.
WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.