Owner pleads guilty in Vegas puppy store fire case

October 20, 2014 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 35-year-old former Las Vegas pet shop owner pleaded guilty Monday to felony charges that could get her up to 24 years in state prison for setting fire to the business before 27 puppies and dogs were rescued earlier this year, a court official said.

Gloria Eun Hye Lee pleaded guilty Monday in Clark County District Court to arson, insurance fraud and attempted animal cruelty in a plea deal calling for the dismissal of 28 other charges against her, court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price said. She is due for sentencing Feb. 25.

Store security video shows Lee and a man who prosecutors identify as co-defendant Kirk Bills setting fire Jan. 27 to the Prince and Princess pet shop in southwest Las Vegas.

Court documents say Bills is the man seen on video pouring liquid from gasoline cans and igniting it while Lee collects files and leaves.

Bills, 28, a fledgling boxer who lost his first professional fight Jan. 24 in Indio, Calif., was arrested Feb. 7 in Crown Point, Indiana, and returned to Las Vegas. He remains jailed pending trial next month on 31 felony charges. He has pleaded not guilty.


His lawyer, Roger Bailey, didn’t immediately respond to messages.

Lee, who was freed from jail in April on bail and house arrest, was accused of trying to collect a $3,500 insurance claim for losses from the fire. She is a U.S. citizen originally from South Korea and a convicted felon who moved to Las Vegas from California.

Sprinklers quickly doused flames, and no dogs perished. But the incident spurred outrage from animal rights advocates, drew protesters to the courthouse steps, and sparked a two-month legal tug-of-war over ownership of the rescued puppies.

Owners were found for 25 puppies through a raffle held in March with $250 tickets sold to benefit a local animal shelter. Two adult dogs were placed by a rescue group called A Home 4 Spot.

Prosecutor Shanon Clowers declined comment Monday about Lee’s plea. Clowers noted that Lee didn’t promise to testify against Bills.

Lee’s attorneys, Tom Pitaro and Ozzie Fumo, didn’t immediately respond to messages.