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Memorandum of Interview June 19, 2009

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File: Ch-3330-0014



Date: 6/19/2009


Lenawee County Sheriff s Office 405 N. Winter St.

Adrian. MI 49221

Agent: Jeffery Nickols

Phone: NA

On Friday, June 19. 2009, at approximately 10:00 a.m, Special Agent Rob Bell and I interviewed JOSHUA GATES at the Lenawee County Sheriffs Office located at 405 Winter St. Adrian, MI. Prior to the interview. GATES was read his Constitutional Miranda Rights which he waived both verbally.and in writing. During this interview Mr. JOSHUA GATES stated the following:

JOSHUA GATES resides at his residence located in Blissfield,

Michigan. GATES got into dog fighting through the Cassanovas who lived in the area. The Cassanovas introduced GATES to other dog fighters in Michigan and throughout the United States. GATES stated the Cassanovas would transport "WildSide Dogs" for Ed Farrons . WildSide Kennels in North Carolina to Michigan. GATES stated the Cassanovas would sell the WildSide dogs in Michigan for dog fighting purposes and return the money to Ed Farron.

GATES was shown photos of MARTIN PHILLIPS and RONALD RUSSELL. GATES positively identified PHILLIPS and RUSSELL from the photos and stated he has known.them for approximately one year. GATES stated that PHILLIPS and RUSSELL brought the pit over to his house about one month ago and never came to get it. GATES stated approximately seven of the pit bulls seized from his home belong to PHILLIPS. GATES stated both PHILLIPS and RUSSELL are dog fighters and breeders. GATES stated PHILLIPS runs "Pitformance Kennels" and breeds "Levi" bloodline pit bulls for fighting purposes. GA TES stated RUSSELL controls all the matches that take place in Detroit and most other places in Michigan. GATES stated if a match takes place in Michigan, PHILLIPS and RUSSELL know about it or set it up. GATES stated he has seen both PHILLIPS and RUSSELL handle dogs in the pit during matches.

GATES stated RUSSELL is also a referee for matches and has refereed approximately fifteen matches in the last year. GATES identified PHILLIPS and RUSSELL as the two individuals mostly. responsible for dog fighting in Michigan.

GATES stated PHILLIPS and RODRIGUEZ recently traveled to Indiana to fight PHILLIPS Champion "Lil Red" in a large match .. GATES stated PHILLIPS bet at least $1,500 to $2,000 on the match and lost the match. GATES stated RODRIGl!EZ is also a dog fighter and works for

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PHILLIPS with the breeding, selling and storing of PHILLIPS dogs. GATES stated he traveled with RODRIGUEZ recently to Lansing and watched RODRIGUEZ match his dog "Honey" against "Super Raw" out of Grand Rapids.

GATES stated the "Sporting Dog Journal" was authored and distributed from Detroit by Kevin Page AKA Grim Reaper. 'GATES stated he knows Page was killed. GATES stated he knows of people who are selling copies of the "Sporting Dog Journal" and collections of photographs from the past issues of the Journal. GATES stated the information published in the journal is coded but refers to dog fighting. GATES stated the fights are listed as weights/pulls and identifies the kennels or individuals in the match, the names of the dogs in the match, the sex/weight of the dogs, the match referee, the time the match took and the winner of the match. GA TES stated references to Pitformance Kennels in the Journal refer to PHILLIPS and its PHILLIPS handling the dog in the match. GATES also states references to "OBH" or the "Original Bounty Hunter" refer to RUSSELL and it is RUSSELL handling the dog or refereeing the match. GA TES stated the match results were reported to Kevin Page by both PHILLIPS and RUSSELL to be entered into the Journal. GATES stated the advertisement for Pitformance Kennels was produced and turnedover to Page by PHILLIPS.

GATES stated he knows of other fighters in the Lansing area and advised "Sick maid Boys Kennels" is "Bolo, Reggie and Game Breaker". GATES stated "Mestizo" or "Stizo' kennels is

run by Hector who also authors and distributes the "Dogman Revista", r

GATES stated he does not fight dogs but only has attended matches with PHILLIPS, RUSSELL and RODRIGUEZ. GATES stated PHILLIPS and RUSSELL have fought dogs at GATES residence. GATES stated PHILLIPS, RUSSELL and RODRIGUEZ are well known in the dog fighting community and have been around a long time. GATES stated PHILLIPS and RUSSELL have been selling a lot of dogs and maintain on average between twenty to thirty dogs at PHILLIPS residence. GATES stated PHILLIPS owns "LEVI" and it is his main stud dog for the Levi bloodline.

Interview concluded at approximately 12:00 p.m, June 19, 2009 .

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being first duly sworn on oath ( placed on affirmation), rna

the following statement freely and voluntarily to Jeffery Nickols, who has identified himsr!f to me as a Special Agent the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Agriculture, knowing that this statemrnt may be used in evidence.

understand that this statement is not confidential and may be shown to any party who has official interest. __

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I have read this statement, consisting of _!j__ pages, and it is true and correct. have been given an opportunity to make any corrections or additions.

r have signed each page and I


Subscribed and sworn (or affirmed) before me this __ day


Witnessed by me on this ~ .day 0 ~)J-:~=-=----____'


of ~ 2o __ •

Jeffery Nickols, Special Agent USDA Office of Inspector General 3001 Coolidge Road

East Lansing, MT



Exhibit A of IG-841 0





Advice and Waiver of Rights

Place: __:L:.=__( ~-t-1) _

Advice of Rights:

Before I ask you any questions, you must understand your rights.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in cou

You have the right to talk: to a lawyer before I ask you any questions and to have hi er with you during

questioning. If you decide to answer questions (with or without a lawyer present), yo will have the right to stop answering at any time.

Ifyou cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you before any questioning if y u wish.

no pressure Or coercion

Waiver of Rights:

I have read or have had read to me this statement of my rights. I understand what my righ are. I am willing to answer questions.

X I do not wanta lawyer at this time.

__ My lawyer, is present with me.

I understand and know what I am doing. No promises or threats have been made to me of any kind has been used against me.


Special Agent

Office of Inspector General U.S. Department of Agriculture


OIG-84.10-1 (5/98)

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Title: .


July 15, 2009

Agent(s): Robert Bell


On July 15, 2009, JOSH GATES (GATES) was interviewed during a proffer session regarding his alleged participation in the operation of PITFORlv1ANCE KENNELS. The interview was conducted at the United States Marshals Service office in Detroit; Ml. Also in attendance during the interview were GATES's attorney, CRAIG TANK and AUSA EATON BROVIN. After being advised of the nature of the interview, GATES provided the following information:

GATES first got involved with buying, selling and breeding Pit Bull fighting dogs through his brother-in-law, CAZZIE CASSANOV A (C. CASSANOV A). C. CASSANOV A and his brothers, JOSE CASANOVA (J. CASANOVA), EDUARDO CASANOVA (E. CASANOVA), JOHN PAUL CASANOVA (J. P. CASANOVA) and DONNIE JUAN CASANOVA (D. CASANOV A) all worked with WILDSIDE KENNELS (WILDSIDE) owner ED FARON (FARON) to distribute Pit Bull fighting dogs throughout Michigan. All dogs produced by

. FARON were "game dogs," meaning they were bred specifically for fighting. FARON bred the dogs in North Carolina and the. CASANOVAs transported them to Michigan. GATES believed FARON made $120,QOO to $130,000 per year breeding Pit Bulls for fighting purposes.

GATES has only known MARTIN PHILLIPS (PHILLIPS) for approximately nine or ten months. Earlier this year, PHILLIPS and B JAY RODRIGUEZ (RODRIGUEZ) traveled ·to Indiana to participate in a scheduled dog fight or "match." The "GRIM REAPER" and the "SIC MADE BOYS" also traveled to Indiana with PHILLIPS to attend the match. PHILLIPS'main stud dog is "LEVe' He also owns another fighting dog named "GUNNER." PHILLIPS sold

puppies from these studs for $300 to $1500 cash. .

RONALD RUSSELL has accompanied PHILLIPS on out at least one out of state trip to attend a match. RUSSELL has been involved with fighting dogs for at least 30 years. All of PHILLIPS' . good dogs came from RUSSELL. PHILLIPS and RUSSELL have bred numerous fighting dogs together. When RUSSELL was detained by police in June 2009, he was transporting his dog "CHERRY" to PHIILLIPS residence in Bad Axe for breeding.

RODRIGUEZ has been working with PHILLIPS to buy, sell, breed and fight Pit Bulls for approximately a year and a half. The two had been working with dogs together for about six months when GATES was released from prison in May 2008. RODRIGUEZ did anything

. PHILLIPS told him to do. PHILLIPS is the primary owner/operator ofPITFORlVlANCE

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KENNELS. RODRIGUEZ sucked up to the CASANOV As at first, and then he got closer to PHiLLIPS. He began acting as a salesman for PHiLLIPS and transported dogs on PHILLIPS' behalf. On one occasion, RODRIGUEZ delivered a dog which PHILLIPS had sold to an individual from Toledo, OH. RODRIGUEZ met the buyer off of exit 5 on MI state road 23/223. The Ottawa Lake Pilot gas station where GATES works is located at the same exit. RODRIGUEZ received no direct compensation from PHILLIPS for his efforts other than the prospect of breeding his dogs with PHILLIPS' and enhancing his status in the dog fighting community. RODRIGUEZ has operated his own kennel called MACHINE SHOP KENNELS (MACHINE SHOP) for three to five years. He created MACHINE SHOP to give himself a name when breeding andlor matching dogs. RODRIGUEZ has only matched dogs on three occasions that GATES knows of. RODRIGUEZ has purchased several dogs from outside of MICHIGAN and frequently posts positive comments about PHILLIPS' dogs on internet forums. MACHINE SHOP is also advertised on the internet by RODRIGUEZ.

GATES has witnessed both PHILLIPS and RODRIGUEZ handle their dogs during matches, He witnessed PHILLIPS handle his dogs on two 'occasions, including a match PHILLIPS hosted at his previous residence. At that match, RODRIGUEZ's dog "HONEY" defeated a dog owned by "SUPERRA W" from Grand Rapids, MI. PHILLIPS' dog "GUNNER" fought a dog owned by "JACKHAMMER KENNELS" (JACKHAMMER). JACKHAMMER consists of MIKE RHOADS, RAY BRADLEY (BRADLEY) of Ann Arbor, MI and an individual known as "lP." According to GATES., BRADLEY purchased a number of fighting dogs from WILDSIDE .

. GATES acknowledged that he arranged the delivery of a $75 forfeit fee to a referee known as "BOLO" for a match which occurred on Memorial Day weekend this year. After receiving $75 from match participant J.P., GATES contacted PHILLIPS via telephone and asked him to deliver the cash to BOLO. At that time PHILLIPS had scheduled a match with "SIC MADE BOYS KENNELS" (SMB), of which BOLO is a member. The delivery did not work out and GATES eventually had to mail the funds to BOLO in the form of a Western Union money order. He purchased the money order at work. On the day of the match, GATES and RODRIGUEZ escorted J.P. and his fighting dog from the Adrian, MI area to the Lansing, MI residence of REGGIE ASKEW (ASKEW), another member of 5MB. ASKEW allowed J.P. to walk his dog around for several minutes, a tactic intended to relax the dog after transport. The match was hosted at another residence in Lansing, under the supervision. of members of "SOARING EAGLE KENNELS." ASKEW accompanied GATES, RODRIGUEZ and lP. to the match. Another 5MB member referred to as "GAMEBREAKER" was present at the match as well.

DONNIE FRIEND (FRIEND), an associate of GATES, traveled to Lansing from Florida to attend the same match. FRIEND is a truck driver who also breeds Pitt Bull dogs. FRIEND

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recently tried sent a shipment of "Dex" to an individual known as "DAMIAN" in the Hillsdale,

MI area. (Reporting Agent's note: GATES is likely referring to Dexamethasone, an antiinflammatory steroid frequently used by dog fighters to treat injuries sustained by their dogs) The bottles broke during shipment, leaving FRIEND and DAMIAN in a dispute over payment. DAMIAN· operates "FATAL MENACE KENNELS" and potentially funds his dog business with drug proceeds. He has recently begun selling repackaged copies of the Sporting Dog Journal.

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Name: Tara-Angelica Reesa Ponder

File: CH 3330-014


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Title: Josh Gate's Girlfriend

Date: Wednesday, June 17,2009


Special Agent: Travis L. Deters

Robert Sinclair (MSP-OMNI)


On the above date at approximately 11:15 a.m., Robert Sinclair and Reporting Agents (RA)


residence, located at in Blissfield, Michigan. PONDER provided the

following information:

PONDER and GATES have been dating for the past couple of years. PONDER took care of GATES' kids while he was injail for over a year. According to PONDER, GATES has been

clean since getting out of jail. "

PONDER and GATES would register their dogs in AADR and ADBA after being purchased from dog shows. PONDER stated that GATES would make money by selling dogs with pedigree papers. She advised that the pedigree of the dog was really important. According to her, GATES purchased several dogs that looked like shit and were all scarred up. GATES purchased the dog medicines from "Euckeles" in Blissfield, Michigan.

PONDER stated that her friend VICKI CASSANOV A was married to MIKE NICHOLS, a " friend of GATES, While attending the dog shows, PONDER stated that they would watch the dog show competitions. She advised that NICHOLS currently owns a dog named "T AZ" that is the State of Michigan pull champ.

According to PONDER,'GATES and his friends B J RODRIGUEZ (RODRIGUEZ), DON FRIEND (FRIEND) and MARTY LNU take care of several dogs. She advised that RODRIGUEZ and MARTY are best friends and RODRIGUEZ assists GATES with caring for the dogs. FRIEND has a pitbull tattooed on the side of his head and is from Florida. PONDER

. last saw FRIEND in Michigan approximately one month ago. She stated that GATES purchased TOKEN and KONVICT from DONNY at Wildside Kennels. She believes DONNY is the brother of VICKI CASSANOV A. PONDER advised that KONVIcT was stolen from GATES mother's house in April 2008, while he was in jail.


At this time, PONDER identified and described the thirteen dogs located inside and outside of the house as follows:

• aUTLA W - crazy dog that his bitten GATES

• FERRO or PHARRO - got dog from MIKE LNU

• SADIE - received in a dog trade (Captain Crunch) at dog show

• SIERRA - GATES' house dog has had two litters of puppies, purchased fromWildside

Kennels (PONDER identified ED FARON from photogragh)

• MEG or MAGGIE - offspring of SIERRA and FERRO

• COCO - received from PETE in Toledo, Ohio

• STOMPER - broke off chain and was located in the basement

• DOLLAR - received from African American Male in Detroit approximately 4 months


• . aDB - received_ from DON "M" who lives in Kentucky

• SAWBUCK - received from MARTY LNU

• SADDAM - received from PETE in Toledo, OHIO

• 8 BALL- was scarred up pretty bad when purchased

• TOKEN - Received from DONNY CASSANOV A - Wildside Kermel

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