How thief used Facebook to steal family's dog
PEPPA the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is reunited with her owners and off on a Christmas holiday, while a cruel dognapper has been exposed after outstanding work from Goodna police.
The family pet, owned by Cynthia Smith and her children Taylor, 3 and Bailey-Noela, 5, is in the car and on her way to a family holiday after she was stolen on Saturday night by a serial dog thief.
The dognapper has been charged with fraud and obstructing police and will appear in Ipswich Magistrate's Court on January 18 thanks largely to the police work of Goodna constables Kate Truelove and Phil Plant.
Ms Smith went to Toowoomba and got back at 11.30pm to discover four-month old Peppa, a staffie, had escaped from her Riverview home. She looked everywhere and a near neighbour said the dog had been found.
"But they said someone else had come and picked her up 20 minutes ago," she said.
Ms Smith said the neighbour had placed the dog as lost on a social media site called 'Pets for sale or give away Ipswich and Brisbane' and soon had someone call around and pick up the dog.
Ms Smith got the phone number of the person who had retrieved the dog after it was discovered she had used a Facebook account, later discovered to be a fake under the name of a Sarah Hall, to claim that she could link the dog with its real owner.
"She was using a fake Facebook account to message people and arrange to pick up dogs, but she was stealing the dogs," Ms Smith said.
"The woman will say she knows who the dog belongs to, hand over her mobile number, and then pretend to be somebody else."
Ms Smith rang the woman's number and it went to voice mail.
"But in her voice mail it was a different name that she had to her Facebook account," Ms Smith said.
"Her name was Sarah Hall on Facebook but she had said to our neighbour that she knew whose dog it was because she had sold it to (a woman with another name) and that she could provide her number. So (the woman with another name) had picked the dog up, but it was the exact same person who was using the Sarah Hall account."
Ms Smith said she searched until 3.30am and was messaging both the Facebook account of 'Sarah Hall' and the woman's mobile number.
"And she was messaging me back," Ms Smith said.
"I eventually figured it out but I kept my cool and was nice because I wanted my dog back. I had updated (on Facebook) that the wrong person had picked up the dog.":
Ms Smith said a flood of people came back to say that 'Sarah Hall' had been involved in other dognapping scams.
"They had figured out she was in fact a dog thief," Ms Smith said.
At 3.30am 'Sarah Hall' arranged to meet up with Ms Smith later that day to help find the woman who had the dog, who in actual fact was herself.
"The next morning came and she said she couldn't meet up, but then she called me and her distinct voice matched up with her voicemail from when we called the number before," Ms Smith said.
"She sounded exactly the same, so I knew it was her.
"She said she didn't have our dog, but the screen shots she sent me of the dogs she owned were the same as those that belonged to other people."
Ms Smith went to the Goodna police and handed over the details mentioned above, along with a description of the car that had picked up her dog from the neighbour's.
Ms Smith said the Goodna police located the woman, Peppa and other dogs that belonged to other people with the assistance of Ipswich City Council. She thanked Const Truelove and Const Plant and council staff.
Const Truelove said that all-round it was a successful operation, with the assistance of Ms Smith invaluable.
"It is wonderful to see such a great outcome and that we were able, with Cynthia and social media's help, to catch the offender and formally charge her," she said.
"We returned a dog to its rightful owner, which was lovely, and there are still investigations going on.
"We took the council with us because Cynthia had said her dog was microchipped...so we could identify it as her dog."
There were four or five other dogs at the offender's property. That have been collected and it is hoped they can all be reunited with their owners. For Ms Smith, the family is happy and on holiday together with beloved Peppa.
"It is just great that we could leave and know that Peppa is safe and she will be with us all for Christmas," she said.