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Tag: theft

How not to find a pet sitter

fluffyIt would be easy to blame the disappearance of Fluffy on Craigslist. Too easy.

Fluffy’s owner deserves some of the blame — for leaving her four-year-old shih tzu-Maltese mix with a woman who responded to her Craigslist ad for a pet sitter, without ever visiting the home her dog was going to be staying in.

But the real culprit, police in Florida say, is the woman they are now looking for — the one who identified herself as Keyana Morales when she responded to the pet owner’s ad, and who was hired after meeting  with Fluffy and her owner a couple of times in a local park.

Fluffy’s owner hired Morales to care for Fluffy while she and her family were on vacation out of the country. When she returned from vacation, Fluffy — and Morales — were nowhere to be found.

Her phone calls and emails went unanswered, and the address the pet sitter gave her turned out to be a vacant house, Local10 reports.

Police in Boynton Beach say Morales’ name was phony as well. They are now seeking the woman they believe absconded with the dog after posing as a pet sitter – Shamari Patrick, 23.

Police say Patrick lives out of her car, a burgundy Grand Marquis. (Anyone with information about Patrick or Fluffy is asked to call police at 561-742-6135 or Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers at 800-458-TIPS.)

patrick

Police say they believe stealing Fluffy was Patrick’s intent from the start, which, unless she was paid up front, doesn’t make much sense, and doesn’t explain why Patrick, as Morales, stayed in touch with the pet owner during her trip, and emailed her photos of Fluffy.

We don’t know if police are jumping to conclusions, but Fluffy’s owner sure did before leaving on vacation in July when she decided to hire a pet sitter without exercising hardly any of the diligence that was due.

Maybe that’s why she’s seeking not to be identified by name. News reports refer to her as Fluffy’s owner, or “the victim.” Perhaps she’s a little embarassed about having done so little homework before entrusting her dog to a stranger.

Craigslist, and the Internet, make everything seem so quick and easy that we no longer see them as what they truly are — crapshoots, unreliable and dangerous, in large part because they make us think answers and solutions are just a click away.

Craigslist, and all the rest of the Internet, should be seen as a starting point, from which to move on to further research. Otherwise they can lead to endings  that, as could be the case for Fluffy, are not at all happy.

Worst in show: Pair stole from elderly sisters to pay their dog show expenses, police say

ashleyTo pay for their dog show habit, two Pennsylvania women stole thousands of dollars from the life savings of two elderly sisters, state police say.

Jessica S. Skacel, 30, of Derry, and Ashley M. Giovannagelo, 22, of Greensburg, were charged with criminal conspiracy and theft, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported yesterday.

According to court documents, Skacel was hired as a caretaker for the sisters, now ages 85 and 83, in their home in Derry Township in 2011. Giovannagelo later assisted her in those duties.

Police say they started stealing from the sisters — both from their bank accounts and money the sisters had squirreled away in hiding places around the house — in early 2012.

Police began an investigation after a man who has power of attorney for the sisters noticed their bank accounts, both of which exceeded $100,000, ” were basically empty,” according to court documents.

“The bank records showed that both victims were making regular, large cash withdrawals from their accounts in amounts such as $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 and even $20,000 at a time,” an investigating officer stated.

Police say the money was used to cover travel expenses to dog shows. Skacel’s former husband, Kyle Squib, told police she purchased two trailers for more than $5,000 to transport dogs to shows.

Police say Skacel admitted to stealing an estimated $40,000-$50,000 from the sisters.

Skacel is a dog groomer and Giovannagelo shows dogs regularly, according to their Facebook pages.

Skacel and Giovannagelo were fired as caretakers for the sisters in September 2013, shortly after the investigation began, police said.

Both face preliminary hearings Sept. 3 before a district judge.

(Photo: Ashley Giovannagelo shows a St. Bernard at a dog show in a photo posted on her Facebook page)

Miracle on Baltimore’s 34th Street

Through the month of December, Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) has been holding a bake sale on 34th Street, an area of Baltimore known for its over-the-top display of Christmas lights.

In addition to raising money for the shelter, BARCS is using the opportunity to educate the public about the shelter and about pit bulls – and how, despite the stereotypes, they aren’t innately evil. Generally, when a pit bull turns bad, it’s a human who has turned him that way.

As if to prove that point — that our problem is not bad dogs, it’s bad humans – a particularly heartless member of the latter species approached the BARCS booth last night, asked a BARCS volunteer if the money was being raised for charity, then ran off with the donation box.

A BARCS staff person chased the thief down the street, and he was eventually caught by another man and an off-duty firefighter.  When police arrived, the box of donations was recovered and the suspect was arrested.

Meanwhile, back at the BARCS booth, 34th Street residents and citizens there to enjoy the lights came forward in droves, offering assistance and donations to replace those that had been stolen.

“Yes, we DO believe in Santa Claus!” BARCS said in a press release yesterday.

 BARCS will be selling baked goods on 34th Street from 7 to 9 p.m. every night through December 31.

Stolen “Blue Dog” paintings recovered

New Orleans police recovered two “Blue Dog” paintings taken Monday from George Rodrigue’s French Quarter gallery and say they appear to be in good condition.

The paintings were found in a warehouse, and the search continues for the suspected thief, the Times-Picayune reported.

Police are looking for Lee Szakats, 60, of New Orleans in connection with the thefts.

Police said two tips helped lead to the recovery of the artworks.  A tipster identified Szakats as a suspect seen in surveillance videos walking into Rodrigue’s gallery Monday afternoon and walking out with the small paintings in a shopping bag.

A second tipster called the gallery, telling them where the paintings could be found.

Rodrigue, a Cajun artist, is best known for his blue dog paintings.

(Photo: Hilary Scheinuk / The Times-Picayune)

Poop II: Town cancels its free bag program

Officials in the otherwise affluent Minnesota town of Edina say free dog poop bags will no longer be placed in dispensers at city parks.

The reason? Folks were emptying the dispensers only hours after they were being filled, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

“People walk up and take them until they’re gone,” he said. “And it’s not just one isolated incident. It’s everywhere and often.”

John Keprios, director of parks and recreation for the city of Edina, said the $12,000-per-year poop bag program was halted at eight parks that formerly stocked the bags.

“I would have loved to have kept providing them,” Keprios said. “Financially, it’s not just feasible if they treat it that way.”

One wonders how much it cost to put up the signs notifying people of that at the eight parks.

(Photo: Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Despite arrest, stolen dog still missing

grazio(Update: Grazio has been found and returned to his owner. Fox News reports she received a call from a man in Catonsville who had the dog. “I can’t give specific details … but I thank him,” the dog’s owner said.)

Police have arrested a suspect in the heist of a Baltimore woman’s $4,000 puppy.

Catherine Bergholz, who described her nine-week-old puppy, Grazio, as a show dog, told police the dog was taken on Thursday.

“Can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I’m already up to smoking four packs of cigarettes a day,” Bergholz told WJZ-TV. “Just to think that someone would do this to me is horrible. That was not just a dog; that was my baby.”

Grazio is an American Bully, a breed established in the 1990s and not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. The breed was created by crossing American Staffordshire terriers with American pit bull terriers.

While Bergholz was gone from her Curtis Bay home last Thursday, a man opened her door, grabbed the puppy and ran to his car, a witness told police. A nearby security camera took pictures of that car and police soon arrested Ronald Johnson. Johnson has told police he doesn’t know where Grazio is.

The owner is offering a reward for the safe return of the dog. Anyone with information is asked to call police.

Students’ hard work foiled by thief

Students at Woodlands High School in Conroe, Texas raised $9,000 to help purchase a land-mine sniffing dog — only to see the money snatched by a thief.

Teacher Susan Hollier  said about 2,000 people from across the community attended a Woodlands High School walk and fundraising festival on Saturday.

Two student clubs — Interact and the Council on International Affairs — started working on the project in February, with hopes of raising $20,000 to pay for the purchase and training of a Belgian Malinois. The dogs are sent around the world to detect mines so communities in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam can use the land again.

Part of the money raised was also going to pay for a Woodlands High student to travel to Bosnia to see the dogs in action. The clubs’ project dog was going to visit the high school in May.

Around noon Saturday, though, a suspect grabbed a box of donated money from a student and ran, according to the Houston Chronicle. Hollier said all but $253 was stolen.

“It’s really just heartbreaking, especially when this one dog would save up to 10,000 lives in its five to seven years of service,” said Shelby Howard, 18, president of Interact. “It’s really hard to see all our hard work just taken from us in a matter of seconds. It’s hard to believe someone would go to that level.”

What are the clubs going to do about it? Start all over again, Shelby said. “We’re definitely not going to just let it go. This is a worthy cause.”

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