Saturday, August 2, 2014
A Norfolk dog breeder who duped unsuspecting pet owners out of more than £171,000 by claiming puppies she sold were Kennel Club registered when they were not, has been jailed for six months.
Lisa Walsh, 47, appeared for sentencing at Norwich Crown Court yesterday, after earlier pleading guilty to fraudulent trading.
She was also given a criminal anti-social behaviour order (Crasbo), which excludes her from selling, trading or breeding dogs for five years.
Walsh, who now lives in Low Road, Easton, but was living at Mill Road, Barnham Broom at the time of the offences, held a breeder’s licence at Greenacres Farm, Ipswich Road, Tasburgh, but also sold puppies from addresses in Hockering and Barnham Broom.
She had denied participating in a fraudulent business between September 2009 and October 2012, but changed her plea to guilty on the third day of what was to be a four-week trial at Norwich Crown Court in May.
The court had been told her plea was entered on the basis that it was not a fraudulent business from the outset, but became so after the death of her husband in 2009, when she moved to Norfolk.
David Wilson, prosecuting on behalf of Norfolk Trading Standards, said Walsh had operated a dog-breeding business from a variety of addresses, in Norfolk and Cheshire.
Some of the puppies bought from Walsh were vomiting and had diarrhoea after the new owners took them home. Others suffered from health problems, with one labrador puppy needing a £5000 operation on its hip and another having to be put down after it contracted parvovirus.
Trading standards officers launched an investigation following complaints and visited Greenacres Farm in April 2012, when she was arrested on suspicion of fraud.
Suzanne Keeble bought a dog from Walsh which now has hip dysplasia, and has cost thousands of pounds in vet bills.
She said: “We are overjoyed. We thought she was going to get a suspended sentence. It would have been nicer if she had got more than six months.
“Hopefully, it will give her time to reflect on what she has put us all through. We have all suffered so much. I bought my dog for my life, but have been told that it might have to be put down.”
Samantha Brady bought her labrador from Walsh and the dog needed both hips replaced due to severe bilateral hip dysplasia.
She said: “We were expecting her to get a suspended sentence so are very pleased that she has been jailed, although six months is not enough.”
Maria Hunton bought a West Highland terrier from Walsh, at a cost of £500.
She said: “I don’t think six months is long enough, but we are all pleased.
“Hopefully, her sentence will act as a warning to other people, and will deter others from doing what she did.”
When officers entered the barn area it contained a number of dogs including black, chocolate and yellow labradors and puppies, a boxer dog and puppies, West Highland terriers, cavalier King Charles spaniels and two cocker ppaniel puppies.
On her arrest, Walsh had more than £43,000 in a building society account,
Trading standards officers went through receipt books seized on her arrest, which set out details of cash conned from unsuspecting buyers.
Walsh achieved inflated sales prices for her puppies by claiming they were Kennel Club registered, when they were not. The average price she charged for a puppy was about £500.
Walsh also falsified paperwork to give the impression the puppies had been inoculated against deadly diseases such as parvovirus, when they had not.
Mr Wilson said pet owners conned by Walsh said they would not have paid the price she was asking or have contacted her about buying a puppy in the first place if they had known the true situation.
He said buyers were under the impression that Walsh was acting privately and not operating a commercial enterprise.
During the five-year investigation more than 60 pet owners provided information and 50 stepped forward to be witnesses for the prosecution at the planned trial.
Jude Durr, for Walsh, said in mitigation that she had not been involved in the scam from the start, and that it had primarily been her husband’s enterprise, before his death.
He said she was a single parent with a child with special needs and added that Walsh’s relatives would struggle to look after her son should she be jailed.
He added: “The emotional impact of her husband’s death may also have played a part in her actions. Her prospects in the workplace were also compromised by having a young son with particular medical and educational needs.”
But Judge Antony Bate said Walsh had engaged in a “sophisticated and skilled” operation that was premeditated and involved multiple transactions.
Walsh had admitted two allegations of fraud in making false representations that the puppies had been vaccinated, when they had not. She was sentenced to one month imprisonment each, to run concurrently.
Walsh was also sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, to run concurrently, for cheating Norfolk taxpayers by claiming £12,335.53 in housing benefit and £2,631.81 in council tax benefit from South Norfolk Council.
Walsh had previously pleaded guilty to the offences at separate appearances.