Kennel Operator Gets 5+ Year Federal Prison Sentence
For years Blountville, TN Rebel Ridge Kennel operator, Gina De’Lynn Price, sold sick dogs and puppies to hundreds of people and got away with it, at least until she had a run in with Warren James and some friends who just wanted to get a puppy for a friend of theirs.
This week U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Greer sentenced Price to 5 years 11 months in a federal prison but she wasn’t convicted of animal cruelty or animal abuse, she was convicted of seven felony fraud charges – including wire and mail fraud and income tax evasion.
It all started four years ago when Warren James and some friends wanted to get a bulldog puppy for a friend. Like many people, they were aware of puppy mills, internet scams and straight out frauds when is comes to buying a puppy. They searched online and found Rebel Ridge Kennels.
James put up half of the $1,800 cost for the puppy which included shipping and it didn’t take long for the problems to start. First, the puppy was supposed to show up on a certain day but she was shipped early and no one was notified so the puppy, which James named Grace, sat in a carrier at the airport. When Jame was finally notified at 2 am, the information he was given was incomplete, no shipping or flight info.
The next problem comes when they take Grace to the vet, ear mite and a stage 5 heart murmur that the vet could feel with his hand. The vet gave the puppy only months to live. Amazingly, Grace survived until June 6, 2009 but there was more than $8000 in vet bills.
When James contacted Price, she refused to do anything and her response by email was, “I could not care less if you die or your dogs.”
In 2004, when James got the prognosis on Grace, he reached out to the intenet community and it didn’t take long for him to find out that he and his friends were not along when it came to Rebel Ridge Kennels. He started a website and got the word out, trying to bring together other customers who were misled and scammed by Price.
The Web site also put James in contact with two animal rights activists, Bruce Lorenzen and James Hoffman, who would join James in building a case that they took to federal authorities.
Hoffman, who testified in Price’s trail in July 2008, told federal investigators that she was a puppy importer. She would buy puppies from kennels in Eastern Europe and sell them to Americans at a profit of at least several hundred dollars, Hoffman said. Also during the trial, Hoffman said 28,000 dogs a year are brought to the United States from Eastern Europe and sold to customers using methods Price employed at Rebel Ridge Kennels.
According to court records in the case, many of the dogs Price bought suffered from severe and often fatal medical conditions including heart murmurs, canine parvovirus, and hip dysplasia at the time the were imported.
On Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Harr said she learned about Price’s business after meeting with James, Hoffman and Lorenzen in 2005. The subsequent investigation of the kennel revealed that Price was selling sick dogs under false pretenses, collecting Social Security disability benefits while operating her business, and failing to report her kennel income – estimated at more than $1 million over three years – on her tax returns.
“You put those together and there’s a real compelling federal interest,” Harr said. (TriCities.com)
Although they found that Price has imported 597 dogs through Atlanta’s airport, she also used other, in the end, they brought together 174 canine victims of Price, over 250 people and more than $525K in damages and costs and 38 people testified at the trial.
The number of people harmed, and the costs they incurred played a role in the court’s decision on Price’s sentencing.
Under the circumstances Bishop outlined, Price could have been sentenced to a maximum of 7 years and 3 months in prison.
Price’s attorney, Richard Spivey, successfully argued that Bishop’s estimate of the number of people harmed was too high.
“It’s my very strong belief that we’re only talking about 174 victims here,” Spivey said.
He also argued that the damages should be limited to the 38 people who testified during Price’s trial, and who spent a total of $64,000.
Spivey also said that most of the people who bought dogs from Price chose to keep them, and many of her customers had no problems at all.
Price, testifying Tuesday, apologized for the way she treated some of her customers and the federal agents who investigated her case.
“I never intentionally wanted to hurt or harm anyone,” Price said. She also said her behavior resulted from prior mistreatment she suffered.
Luckily the judge didn’t buy her whining and passed sentence on this greedy bitch. Yes, they couldn’t get her on animal cruelty but in the end, she’s where she belongs, behind bars! I think this is something that all puppy millers and fraudulent breeders and scammers should take note of, there’s more than one way to put you behind bars! Now if only the judicial system would put the effort into going after these people, one way or another!
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