Dogfighting, fraud, and the Lake County connection

Winnebago County Animal Services: Where have the pit bulls gone?

What started out as a federal fraud investigation at a West State Street residence snowballed into a much larger case involving drugs, dogfighting, and a probable connection to a case in Lake County.

Thursday morning, May 12, U.S. Secret Service agents from Chicago were at the home at 8190 W. State St. to investigate an alleged credit card fraud. In the process of investigation, agents discovered more than 500 grams of marijuana and brass knuckles, as well as 18 pit bulls and equipment commonly used in dogfighting.

Three men arrested

Secret Service and Winnebago County Sheriff’s police arrested three men. David Fisk, 39, was arrested on a federal warrant for conspiracy to commit credit card fraud and identity theft, and taken into federal custody. Rodrigo Campos, 33, of Palatine, was arrested on county charges of manufacturing and delivery of marijuana, and unlawful use or sale of a weapon. He is in Winnebago County Jail on $50,000 bond.

Alejandro Campos-Rivera, 32, of Streamwood, was arrested on outstanding Ogle County charges of contempt and unlawful possession of marijuana. He is in Ogle County Jail on $25,000 bond and an extra $446 full-cash bond. No charges have yet been filed in the dogfight investigation.

Winnebago County Animal Services Director Gary Longanecker said his investigation is being conducted separately from the federal fraud case and the state drug and weapons charges. It may take one or two weeks, but will eventually be turned over to the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s office.

The case took an unexpected turn when six of the 18 pit bulls seized by WCAS disappeared from the facility less than 24 hours later. WCAS staff discovered the break-in when they came to work at 6 a.m. Friday. County officials think that more than one intruder broke a window in the confinement area, took six specific pit bulls from more than 50 dogs in cages, and left. The thieves selected particular dogs that were highly valued by owners and breeders.

According to animal-crime experts, break-ins at shelters to retrieve pit bulls is the signature card of illegal dog fighters. With hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake, some dogs can earn as much as $2,500 for stud fees if they have good fight records. All of this is underground information shared only with people in the dogfighting industry.

The Lake County connection

New leads in the WCAS break-in investigation point to a Chicago-area man and a Lake County case that has many similarities to the alleged illegal dog breeding and fighting operation discovered here.

Jason Mitsias, 30, of Streamwood, has become a “person of interest” in the Winnebago County investigation since he has ties to the county, the men arrested in the case, and the very similar dogfighting operation and shelter break-in in Lake County in 2002.

Along with the 18 pit bulls, marijuana, illegal weapons, veterinary supplies and a fighting pit at the West State Street residence, Winnebago County officials found paperwork and computer files. The next day, six of the dogs were stolen from the WCAS facility.

Mitsias and his father, Arthur Mitsias, were targeted by county officials because not only had they pled guilty to animal cruelty for staging dogfights, but Jason Mitsias was also a main suspect in the break-in at Lake County Animal Services days after 15 dogs were taken from the Mitsiases’ Lake County home. Two dogs were stolen during that break-in.

Leslie Pietrowski, a Lake County Health Department spokesman, verified that Mitsias was a suspect, but officials could not prove who did it.

One of the dogs seized in the Lake County case was believed to belong to Rodrigo Campos of Palatine, who was one of three men arrested on drug charges connected with the West State Street home. Marijuana was also involved in the Lake County case.

Mitsias is in the DuPage County Jail on several drug charges, including possession and intent to deliver the marijuana recovered at West State Street.

From the May 18-24, 2005, issue

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