|Who, age||What||Where||When||Last Known Address|
|Walter Dale Stumbo, 51(1)||knowingly sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal-fighting venture at Big Blue Sportsmen's Club||
|May 3, 2014||McDowell, KY|
|Sonya K. Stumbo, 51(3)||knowingly sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal-fighting venture at Big Blue Sportsmen's Club||
|May 3, 2014||McDowell, KY|
|Joshua Dale Stumbo, 25(2)||knowingly sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal-fighting venture at Big Blue Sportsmen's Club||
|May 3, 2014||McDowell, KY|
|Wesley Dean Robinson, 57(2)||knowingly sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture||
|May 3, 2014|
|Jonathan Robinson, 33(2)||knowingly sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture||
|May 3, 2014|
|Phillip Albert Meade, 54(4)||unlawful manufacture, transport, selling & possessing untaxed alcoholic beverage while being armed; possessing marijuana||
|May 3, 2014|
|Tammy Carol Meade, 47(4)||unlawful manufacturing, possessing, shipping or transporting untaxed alcohol while being armed||
|May 3, 2014|
|Jeffery A. Meade, 40(4)||selling alcoholic beverages without a license; possessing, shipping or transporting untaxed alcohol & unlawful manufacture, transport or sale of alcoholic beverages while being armed||
|May 3, 2014|
|Russell Peaks, 38||selling, giving, or distributing a controlled substance classified as a Schedule III||
|May 3, 2014|
|Type of Crime||Other Crimes||#/Type of animal(s) involved||Case Status||Next Court Date /Courthouse|
|54 felony, misdemeanor and federal charges||illegal drugs, gambling, weapons and moonshine||550+ fighting birds||Convicted||
(1&3) 10/9/14 United States District Court in Abingdon, VA.
(2) 10/14/14 United States District Court in Abingdon, VA.
(4) 5/5/14 Wise County, VA Sheriff’s Office magistrate
Three Kentuckians and two Virginia residents have been charged in federal court with conducting cockfights that drew people from eight states to a pit in eastern Kentucky. Four other Virginia residents were charged with weapons violations, selling or transporting illegal moonshine and selling drugs.
The five were charged with conspiring to operate an illegal gambling enterprise and illegally conduct cockfights at the Big Blue Sportsmen's Club in McDowell, Kentucky, U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy of the Western District of Virginia said in a news release.
Charged are 51-year-old Walter Dale Stumbo, 51-year-old Sonya Stumbo and 25-year-old Joshua Stumbo of Floyd County, Kentucky; and 57-year-old Wesley Dean Robinson and 33-year-old Jonathan Robinson of Wise County, Virginia. They were arrested on May 3rd and appeared in court on May 5th, according to prosecutors.
Photo's courtesy of the Wise County Sheriff's Office.
All five were released on bond. The Stumbos, who appeared in federal court in Pikeville, were directed to appear on May 6th in Abingdon, Virginia, Heaphy's release said.
A federal investigator said that at various times during a yearlong undercover investigation, police saw vehicles at Big Blue from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Georgia. "The complaint further alleges that entrance fees at Big Blue were $250 per entry with approximately 100 total entries per derby." (see complaint)
Hundreds of people, including children, attended fights that left bloodied birds dead or dying, Stan Wojtkonski, an investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said in an affidavit.
Sonya Stumbo told one undercover officer the club had memberships on file for more than 6,000 people.
The club — which had photos of known police informants posted — scheduled cockfighting on more than 30 days in the 2013-14 season, including a Kentucky state championship and a "World Cup," Wojtkonski said.
The club allegedly charged bird owners fees of hundreds or thousands of dollars to enter contests. Based on the schedule, Wojtkonski estimated the business took in more than $1 million annually. Untold thousands more changed hands in betting, according to the affidavit.
A joint investigation by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of the Inspector General (USDA), culminated in an early morning raid Saturday, May 3, on seven locations in Virginia and Kentucky.
The two-year investigation began as an inquiry into an illegal moonshine operation, including the manufacture and distribution of untaxed liquor, but led to evidence of illegal cockfighting and animal cruelty, as well as illegal drugs, gambling and weapons.
Virginia ABC special agents and USDA agents, with assistance from the Virginia State Police and Wise County Sheriff’s Office, executed search and arrest warrants at locations in McDowell, KY and Pound, VA.
The dual-state raid resulted in 54 charges, including 30 felony charges, 19 state misdemeanor charges and five federal charges. Additional arrests and charges are expected pending further investigation.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was called in to assist with the rescue of hundreds of fighting birds from two Virginia properties. “The ASPCA worked diligently at the scene and handled the care and safety of the animals with remarkable expertise,” said ABC Special Agent in Charge Kyle Blanks, who oversaw the operation.
Virginia ABC and USDA agents worked on locations until late Saturday evening and were assisted by 10 other state and federal agencies including the Virginia State Police, Wise County Sheriff’s Office, ASPCA, Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Virginia Office of the Attorney General, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Department of Corrections, Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Although the emphasis of this case was illegal liquor, once the illegal cockfighting was discovered we immediately requested the aid of the experts at the USDA and the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force to handle those aspects of the case. This has been a joint investigation since those relationships were established,” said ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement Director Shawn Walker. “We also thank the 10 other state and federal agencies for their participation in this case. We couldn’t have done it without them,” he added.
Arrests in Pound, VA and charged in state court,
• Wesley Dean Robinson and Jonathan Robinson were charged with knowingly sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture (federal felony charge).
• Phillip Albert Meade, 54, was charged with nine counts of unlawful manufacture, transport or selling of an alcoholic beverage while being armed (state felony); one count of possessing marijuana not obtained from a valid prescription; and four counts of possessing, shipping or transporting untaxed alcohol.
• Tammy Carol Meade, 47, was charged with two counts of possessing, shipping or transporting untaxed alcohol; and two counts of unlawful manufacture, transport or sale of an alcoholic beverage while being armed (state felony).
• Jeffery A. Meade, 40, was charged with selling alcoholic beverages without a license; eight counts of possessing, shipping or transporting untaxed alcohol; and five counts of the unlawful manufacture, transport or sale of alcoholic beverages while being armed (felony).
• Russell Peaks, 38, was charged with one felony count of selling, giving, or distributing a controlled substance classified as a Schedule III.
Note Russell Dwayne Peaks, age 38, of 10229 Cumbow Road Pound, VA has an active felony warrant for drug possession.
Arrests in McDowell, KY include:
• Joshua Stumbo, Sonya Stumbo and Walter Dale Stumbo were charged with knowingly sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal-fighting venture (federal felony).
The defendants from Virginia and Kentucky who were charged with felony federal charges were incarcerated after their arrests. The Robinson's appeared in federal district court in Abingdon, VA and were released on bond. The Stumbos appeared in federal district court in Pikeville, KY on May 5, were released on bond and directed to appear in federal district court in Abingdon on Tuesday, May 6. The Meade's from Virginia were arrested and processed by the Wise County Sheriff’s Office magistrate. All posted bond and were released. These are only charges and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is a major source of revenue for the commonwealth, contributing $1.7 billion to the general fund in the last five years. The agency currently operates 347 state stores. Its Bureau of Law Enforcement oversees 16,000 ABC licensed establishments while the Hearings and Appeals Division considers more than 700 cases each year. The agency also provides alcohol education and prevention programs for people of all ages. Now in its 80th year, ABC remains committed to progress and innovation in carrying out its control, service and revenue mission.
Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer and Special Assistant United States Attorney Virginia and Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch are prosecuting the federal case on behalf of the United States.
Michelle. Welch will be prosecuting the state charges on behalf of the Wise Commonwealth's Attorney. 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.
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.
The case has managed to again raise the issue of cockfighting in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.
At a cockfighting derby in April, Walter Stumbo
asked people in the crowd to work to overturn a federal measure that toughened
rules against cockfighting this year. Undercover officers at the event heard
Stumbo's speech. Walter Stumbo said that there were "people in Kentucky
government that were changing the federal law but couldn't publicly come out
and say it," according to Wojtkonski's affidavit.
Walter Stumbo mentioned Alison Lundergan Grimes and Greg Stumbo, according to the affidavit.
Grimes, the Democratic secretary of state who hopes to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in November, opposes cockfighting and is not working to get the federal law changed, spokeswoman Charly Norton said.
"Alison was an early advocate for the farm bill that cracked down on this practice and called for Mitch McConnell to support this measure well before he did," Norton said.
McConnell angered cockfighters by voting for the change in federal law. Later, his primary opponent, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, faced criticism after attending a rally of cockfighting enthusiasts.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who is from Floyd County, said in a statement that he has no say in federal legislation. And as an elected official, he said, "I have not and would not participate in any way, form or fashion an activity that is criminal in nature."
Prestonsburg attorney Ned Pillersdorf, who represented Walter, Sonya and Joshua Stumbo at an initial court appearance said Greg Stumbo is distantly related to Walter Stumbo — as is Pillersdorf's wife, state Appeals Court Judge Janet Stumbo. 'It's no secret'
Pillersdorf said the existence of the cockfighting arena — formerly the site of a local squirrel festival — was widely known and "openly tolerated." "It's no secret that it's been there for 25 years," Pillersdorf said.
Walter, Sonya and Joshua Stumbo plan to plead not guilty. Their defense will be that they had nothing to do with gambling, Pillersdorf said.
Wesley Dean Robinson and his son, Joshua Robinson also were charged in the alleged conspiracy. The federal affidavit said Joshua Robinson handled fighting birds at the Big Blue pit, while Wesley Robinson allegedly sold gaffs — sharp, curved spears that owners attach to the legs of fighting birds so they can slash opponents.
The case originated in Virginia, where authorities investigating illegal alcohol production saw ties to illegal animal fighting and called in federal investigators, Wojtkonski said.
Cockfighting is a felony in Virginia, so many residents who wanted to fight their birds traveled to Kentucky, where cockfighting is a misdemeanor, Wojtkonski said.
Two undercover investigators from Virginia posed as gamecock owners and attended a number of fights at the Big Blue pit, beginning in early 2013, according to the federal affidavit.
People who take part in cockfighting have reacted strongly against efforts to crack down on it. B.L. Cozad Jr., who said he is a gamecock farmer from Lawton, OK argued that the government is infringing on people's rights by prosecuting cockfighting. A gamecock owner "has the right to own, possess and harvest his livestock," just as a cattle rancher does, Cozad said. "God gave man dominion over the Earth, animals, fish and fowl," said Cozad.
The Humane Society of the United States and others, however, see cockfighting as barbaric, not a way to "harvest" chickens.
Wojtkonski described it this way: "Due to the enhanced stabbing and slashing ability bestowed upon the birds by the manmade weapons, cockfighting is an extremely painful, bloody, and deadly event. Birds are stabbed, slashed open, eviscerated, and partially decapitated. Birds that lose a match most often die."
At events at the Big Blue pit, he said, dead and dying birds were tossed in metal barrels.
A national animal cruelty prevention organization was part of a eight-member group that helped remove and then treat hundreds of chickens involved in the Pound, VA cockfighting ring.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) said more than 550 birds were taken off of three properties that were being used at the Big Blue Sportsmen's Club in McDowell, Kentucky for chicken fighting derbies.
The agency has established a temporary shelter at an undisclosed location where the birds are being handled by veterinarians and other skilled workers.
More than 80 workers from Virginia Tech and animal technicians from California, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma and Tennessee assisted in the collection of the animals, the report said.
The ASPCA was requested by the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control's Bureau of Law Enforcement to help with the animals, the agency said.
The club in Kentucky required entry fees from spectators and chicken handlers and offered services such as antibiotics for the fighting birds, full service restaurant and slot machines, a report from U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said.
The federal government wants to collect $905,000 from people accused of operating an illegal cockfighting business that was allegedly one of the largest in the nation.
A federal grand jury recently added more charges against five people who allegedly had a part in the operation.
The charges included a forfeiture count seeking $905,208 — the amount the five allegedly obtained through the illegal operation from June 2009 through May, or which could be traced to the property, according to the indictment.
Stan Wojtkonski, an investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said in a court document that the cockfighting operation was one of the largest in the country.
The Big Blue Sportsmen's Club has been shut down
since the arrests, said Mark Wohlander, who represents Walter Dale Stumbo.
The new charges were filed in Virginia, but Wohlander said he will seek to have the case transferred to Eastern Kentucky.
Cockfighting is a felony in Virginia, but is only a misdemeanor in Kentucky, and there has been debate for more than 20 years on whether an improper veto of a cockfighting measure means it's actually legal in Kentucky. That could become an element of the defense in the case if it is heard in Kentucky. Wohlander said the defense also disputes the amount of money the government wants to seize in the case.
Photo's courtesy of the Wise County Sheriff's Office. Peaks was captured on June 29 after he had been in hiding since early May.
Police found more than 600 packs of synthetic marijuana and more than 500 oxycodone tablets hidden inside a Payne Gap residence.
Photo courtesy of Sally Barto/the mountain eagle This photo shows the cash, oxycodone pills, Opana pills, synthetic marijuana and other drugs found in the Payne Gap home where Russell Peaks was hiding.
“This is the biggest find of synthetics
in Letcher County history,” said Lt. Brian Damron of the Letcher County
Sheriff ’s Department.
Police went to Lawrence Sexton’s residence located at 41 Bellaire Drive on June 29 after a detective with the Wise County Sheriff ’s Department in Virginia had told Damron that a fugitive from Virginia was at the home.
Police found Russell Peaks, of 10229 Cumbow Road, Pound, VA. hiding inside the home, Damron said. Both sheriff departments had been working for a few months trying to locate Peaks.
After police took Peaks into custody, Damron asked Sexton, 55, for consent to search his residence for controlled substances. After Sexton approved Damron’s request, Damron said he found about 300 of the synthetic marijuana packs hidden inside a large Alpo dog food bag, which was located inside a closet behind a bag containing actual dog food.
The opioid pain medication Opana, approximately $4,000 in cash and digital scales were also found at Sexton’s house, Damron said.
Damron estimates that the packets of synthetic marijuana sell for $30 to $50 apiece. The oxycodone tablets varying in milligrams — such as 15, 30 and 40 — sell on the street for $1 a milligram. The opioid pain medication Opana and digital scales were also found at Sexton’s house, Damron said.
“We have had several complaints in the past of Mr. Sexton having drug involvement,” said Damron. “For the most part, the complaints were of him selling controlled substances. We had attempted controlled buys and a reverse buy, both of which didn’t work out.”
Sexton is charged with second-degree possession of a controlled substance, possession of synthetic drugs (class B misdemeanor) and buy/possess drug paraphernalia.
Peaks is charged with first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and first-degree possession of a controlled substance. Sexton and Peaks are being held in the Letcher County Jail. Bond is $100,000 cash each for Sexton and Peaks.
Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb credits the Letcher County Fiscal Court for passing an ordinance prohibiting the selling or possessing of synthetic drugs in helping the sheriff ’s department keep large quantities of synthetic drugs out of the county.
Damron said synthetic drugs are appealing to someone who is on a budget. Drug users get more bang for their buck by purchasing synthetic drugs, Damron said, but synthetic drugs are more dangerous than smoking marijuana.
“When you smoke this it has an instant effect on the body as in eating holes in your lungs and making your blood pressure skyrocket,” said Damron.
Damron has charge of the investigation. The Wise County Sheriff ’s Department, Kentucky State Police Trooper Scott Caudill and Letcher County Sheriff ’s Deputy Travis Cantrell assisted in the case.
United States Attorney Timothy Heaphy and Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced that three individuals pled guilty in United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon, who previously had been arrested on warrants executed 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 and his son, Joshua Dale Stumbo (“Stumbos”) each pled guilty to one count of conspiring to (a) operate an illegal gambling enterprise and (b) illegally conduct cockfights; 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 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 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 cockfighting 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 cockfighting pit to justice. We will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who attend, facilitate, or profit from the misery inflicted on animals during these barbaric fights.”
The successful prosecution was the result of a joint undercover operation by Virginia and federal authorities. Evidence proffered to the court showed that the Stumbos, Robinson's and others conspired to have cockfights at the Big Blue Sportsmen’s Club “Big Blue” in McDowell, Kentucky, and organized a large scale and comprehensive cockfighting 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 Robinson's 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. 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. 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.
The trial of Sonya Stumbo 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.
An investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the Big Blue Sportsmen's Club had arena-style seating, multiple fighting pits and a restaurant. One participant said the club had memberships on file for more than 6,000 people.
Jonathan Robinson who fought birds at the Big Blue pit, pleaded guilty to several charges, including conspiracy, transporting gaffs and possessing an animal for use in an illegal fighting venture. He agreed to pay a judgment of $10,000. He is to be sentenced in October and faces up to 35 years in prison.
Robinson's father, Wesley Dean Robinson who allegedly
sold gaffs at the Big Blue club, pleaded guilty in the case last month and agreed
to a judgment of $50,000, according to court records. He faces up to 15 years
in prison; he is to be sentenced in August.
Charges against the five were filed in federal court in Virginia, where the Robinson's live, even though the cockfights took place in Kentucky. Authorities said the case originated in Virginia, and the conspiracy crossed the state line.
Wojtkonski said cockfighting is a felony in Virginia, so a number of residents wanted to fight their birds in Kentucky, where it is a misdemeanor.
Court records show a federal jury found Sonya Stumbo guilty on 14 counts on August 6th. The charges include conspiracy to knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal fighting venue. Sentencing is set for October 9th in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.
|the mountain eagle|