Guilty pleas in multi-state cock fighting case

scales-of-justice2United States Attorney Timothy Heaphy and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that three individuals pled guilty in federal court Thursday in Abingdon, Virginia to animal fighting and drug charges after being arrested during a joint federal/state multi-agency operation in Virginia and Kentucky on May 3, 2014. United States District Judge James P. Jones accepted the guilty pleas of the following individuals:

  • Walter Dale Stumbo, 52, and his son, Joshua Dale Stumbo, 25, of Floyd County, Kentucky, (hereinafter “Stumbos”) each pled pled guilty to one count of conspiring to (a) operate an illegal gambling enterprise and (b) illegally conduct cock fights; five counts of transporting fighting roosters across state lines; and five counts of transporting bird fighting knives across state lines. They pled guilty without the benefit of a plea agreement and face up to fifty-years in prison and a fine of up to $2.75 million. Joshua Dale Stumbo is scheduled to be sentenced on October 14, 2014. Walter Dale Stumbo is scheduled to be sentenced on October 9, 2014.
  • Jonathan Robinson, 33, of Wise County, Virginia, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to (a) operate an illegal gambling enterprise and (b) illegally conduct cock fights; one count of transporting fighting roosters across state lines; one count of transporting bird fighting knives across state lines; and one count of illegally distributing oxycodone. He pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement and faces up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $1.75 million. He is scheduled to be sentenced on October 8, 2014.
  • Wesley Dean Robinson, 57, of Wise County, Virginia, and father of Jonathan Robinson previously pled guilty on June 16, 2014, to to one count of conspiring to (a) operate an illegal gambling enterprise and (b) illegally conduct cock fights; one count of transporting fighting roosters across state lines; one count of transporting bird fighting knives across state lines; and one count of illegally distributing oxycodone. He also pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement and faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 27, 2014.

United States Attorney Heaphy praised the law enforcement officers who conducted the undercover operation. “The cruel and inhumane practice of cock fighting has no place in a civilized society and is against federal law. The outstanding work of the state and federal agents who investigated this case made it possible to bring these operators of a major cock fighting pit and gambling ring to justice. We will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who attend, facilitate, or profit from the misery inflicted on animals during these barbaric fights.”

“Animal fighting is a brutal and illegal activity that brings along a host of associated crimes that we will not tolerate,” said Attorney General Herring. “This was an extraordinary investigation which showed determination and cooperation, and I’m glad my office has been able to contribute.”

The successful prosecution was the result of a joint undercover operation by Virginia and federal authorities. Evidence proffered to the court today showed that the Stumbos, Robinsons and others conspired to have cock fights at the Big Blue Sportsmen’s Club (“Big Blue”) in McDowell, Kentucky, and organized a large scale and comprehensive cock fighting location at Big Blue, which included collecting “parking” fees from spectators, entrance fees from handlers and offering for sale such services as antibiotics for fighting birds, a full-service restaurant for spectators, and fighting gaffes for fighting cocks. The Robinsons transported birds and fighting gaffes from Wise County, Virginia, to Big Blue. On fight weekends at Big Blue, spectators and handlers traveled from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and other states. Spectators and participants were only allowed entry if they held a valid membership card. Each person was charged a one-time fee of $20 for the membership card. In addition, each person was charged a $20 “parking fee.” Big Blue had approximately 5,000 members. Entrance fees for the fights at Big Blue typically were $250 per entry with approximately 40 to 80 total entries per derby. While fights were taking place and after spectators had arrived, Dale Stumbo caused a bulldozer to be placed on the entrance road to the pit. The bulldozer remained in place until the fights concluded. Investigators executed search warrants on May 3, 2013, the second day of a two day derby billed as the “World Championship.” Entrance fees for the “World Championship” were $2,500. Officers seized over $90,000 in cash at the Stumbos’ home.

The trial of Sonya Stumbo, 51, of Floyd County, Kentucky, is scheduled to begin August 4, 2014, in United States District Court in Abingdon. Ms. Stumbo is entitled to a fair trial and is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer and Special Assistant United States Attorney and Virginia Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States. The case is being investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General, the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau of Law Enforcement, and the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office. In addition, the following agencies assisted in the arrests or related proceedings: Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force; Virginia State Police Tactical Team; Southwest Virginia Regional Task Force; Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office; Wise County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office; Virginia State Veterinarian’s Office; United States Homeland Security Investigations; Kentucky State Police; the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky; and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

 
augusta free press

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