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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

900 East Main Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


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Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
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Brian McGinn
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United States Attorney's Office
Western District of Virginia 
United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy

Joint release from Attorney General Mark Herring and United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy...


ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – United States Attorney Timothy Heaphy and Virginia Attorney  General Mark Herring announced that Walter Dale Stumbo, age 52, Sonya K. Stumbo, age 51, and Joshua  Dale Stumbo, age 26, of Floyd County, Kentucky, were sentenced to prison today in United States District  Court in Abingdon, Virginia, for their roles in operating the “Big Blue” cock fighting pit in McDowell,  Kentucky. In addition, the Court ordered the Stumbos to forfeit $905,208.64. Law enforcement agents  seized all of the Stumbos’ assets to be credited to the forfeiture.


 “The Big Blue Sporting Club was a sophisticated criminal operation that collected substantial  profits by abusing animals,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “The fighting birds  were horribly mistreated by these defendants. Cases like this help bring illegal private gambling and  animal cruelty out of the shadows. Thanks to the persistence and creativity of law enforcement, this  operation has been exposed, its profits disgorged, and its operators held accountable.”


Sonya Stumbo was convicted on all counts at the conclusion of a three day trial on August 6, 2014.  Walter Dale Stumbo and Joshua Dale Stumbo both pled guilty to all charges without the benefit of a plea  agreement. The Stumbos each were convicted of one count of conspiring to operate an illegal gambling  enterprise and illegally conduct cock fights; five counts of transporting fighting roosters across state lines;  and five counts of transporting bird fighting knives across state lines. Two other co-defendants, Wesley  Dean Robinson and his son, Jonathan Robinson, pled guilty pursuant to plea agreements, cooperated with  law enforcement and were sentenced previously in accordance with their plea agreements. Jonathan  Robinson also pled guilty to a drug distribution charge and his sentence included time for that offense.

Wesley Dean Robinson was ordered to forfeit $50,000 and Jonathan Robinson was ordered to forfeit  $10,000. 

The sentences imposed on the five defendants in the case are as follows: 



Walter Dale Stumbo

18 months

Sonya Stumbo

10 months

Joshua Dale Stumbo

10 months

Jonathan Robinson

12 months and 1 day

Wesley Dean Robinson

6 months


In imposing sentence, United States District Judge James P. Jones stated “It does not enhance the human being to inflict pain on animals. It simply doesn’t. It’s something that ought to stop. There is no  good purpose for it, and, as the government points out, bad things happen around these types of events --  gambling obviously occurred, people spending money that they have no business spending, and we can all  imagine the grief that may occur in families and individuals who become addicted to something like this.  It diminishes us as human beings to treat animals in this fashion, and I think Congress has enacted a law  that deserves enforcement.”


The successful prosecution was the result of a joint undercover operation by Virginia and Federal  authorities. Evidence showed that the Stumbos, Robinsons and others organized a large scale and  comprehensive cock fighting operation at the Big Blue Sportsmen’s Club (“Big Blue”) in McDowell,  Kentucky, 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, cock  houses for rental, and fighting gaffes for fighting cocks. The Robinsons transported birds and fighting  gaffes from Wise County, Virginia, to Big Blue in Kentucky. 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. Entry  fees to participate in the fighting were as high as $2,500 per entrant. At times, over 400 people attended  and paid the $20 “parking fee.” 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, 2014, the second day of a two  day derby billed as the “World Championship” and seized over $100,000 in cash from the Stumbos’ home  near McDowell, Kentucky.


Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer and Special Assistant United States  Attorney/Virginia Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch prosecuted 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.