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Orange County sheriff says the search for Bugsy uncovered a puppy trafficking operation

Bugsy and his owner, Johnny Matos, pose for photos after a press conference on Friday. Image: OCSO via Facebook
Bugsy and his owner, Johnny Matos, pose for photos after a press conference on Friday. Image: OCSO via Facebook

The French bulldog Bugsy is back with his owner in Orlando after being stolen at gunpoint months ago.

And the effort to find him uncovered what the Sheriff's Office is calling a dog trafficking organization.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina announced Friday that he has filed charges against two men suspected in the armed robbery.

They are already in jail elsewhere.

One of them -- 34-year-old Ronnie Baker -- is also charged with stealing pricey puppies from pet stores in Bradenton and Largo.

The sheriff says the dogs were being sold or used for breeding. A third man would cut the microchip out of them.

At a press conference Friday Mina said: "When our detectives started investigating a robbery of a French bulldog named Bugsy who was ripped away from his owner at gunpoint on March 25th off of Hiawassee, they had no idea that it would lead them down this dark and disturbing road of animal cruely and puppy trafficking."

Bugsy's owner, Johnny Matos, says it's great to have him home. 

"It was tough going to sleep at night," he said, "when he's not by your feet -- I'm so used to that -- and just playing back over and over again in your head what you could have done differently to not let him get taken."

Detectives rescued eight other dogs in deplorable conditions.

They found Bugsy in September through an associate of Baker and a Facebook page.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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