A man posing as a customer interested in buying five French bulldog puppies pulled out a handgun and pointed it at a breeder and his family at their Pennsylvania home, prosecutors say.
While threatening the family, the man stole the puppies worth $23,500 in October 2020, court documents state. At the time, the breeder’s terrified young daughter “sprinted” from the house and called 911 from a shed as the man fled to North Carolina, according to prosecutors.
Now he’s going to prison.
A judge sentenced Christopher Lamont Stimpson Jr., 24, of Greensboro, North Carolina, to six years and six months in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina announced in a news release on Dec. 5. Greensboro is a city about 75 miles northwest of Raleigh.
“This was a frightening armed robbery that saw the victims menaced at gunpoint,” Jacqueline Maguire, FBI special agent in charge of the agency’s Philadelphia division, said in a statement. “Christopher Stimpson made the very bad decision to come to Pennsylvania and take these pups by force, and this sentence holds him accountable for his actions.”
Previously, a jury found Stimpson guilty of robbery interfering with interstate commerce and aiding and abetting after he pleaded not guilty, court records show. A second individual accused of taking part in the robbery was acquitted, McClatchy News previously reported.
Stimpson’s attorney Michael Huff told McClatchy News in a statement on Dec. 6 that he and his client were “very disappointed in the jury’s verdict.” He added that Stimpson plans to appeal the verdict and the judge’s sentence.
French bulldogs are one of the most stolen dog breeds in the U.S., according to Wag, which cites the American Kennel Club.
In February 2021, two of singer Lady Gaga’s French bulldogs were stolen when her dog walker was shot while taking them out for a walk, McClatchy News previously reported.
On Oct. 29, 2020, Stimpson arrived at an Amish puppy breeder’s home, where his family lived, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to steal the French bulldog pups, court documents state.
He drove to Pennsylvania with a friend to meet with the breeder, Benuel Stoltzfus, who sells French bulldogs online and owns Mountain Top Kennels, McClatchy News reported.
During the trial, Stoltzfus testified that Stimpson pointed the handgun directly at him and his wife while inside their home before taking the puppies, according to court documents.
The terror caused by the robbery committed against the Amish family “was exacerbated by the substantial religious and cultural differences between the victims and our society at large, as their limited interaction with and understanding of ’outsiders’ was severely enhanced, resulting in their loss of trust in people outside of their isolated community,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.
Meanwhile, Stimpson maintains he did not have a gun on him and never robbed Stoltzfus, according to court documents submitted by his attorney.
Stimpson said Stoltzfus began to “act strangely inside his house” and started speaking in a different language to his wife when counting Stimpson’s money, resulting in the wife rushing out of the room, according to the documents.
“Mr. Stimpson then panicked and tried to flee the residence with the money in his possession,” the documents state.
Before Stimpson fled, prosecutors say one of the victims recorded his car registration, which was linked to a Greensboro car rental company, according to the release.
At some point after the robbery, a customer who was interested in buying one of the French bulldog puppies from Stoltzfus recognized the five stolen pups in an Instagram post showing photos and videos of them, prosecutors said. They also saw images of Stimpson associated with the Instagram posting.
In December 2020, police arrested Stimpson in North Carolina, according to the release.
Ultimately, Stoltzfus got the puppies back, but “he wound up having to sell them at a loss,” the sentencing memo states.
The man accused of shooting Lady Gaga’s dog walker and stealing her two French bulldogs was also sentenced to prison on Dec. 5, The New York Times reported. He will serve 21 years.
Police ultimately recovered the singer’s dogs after the robbery when another woman involved surrendered them to authorities, according to the outlet.