Two arrested, accused of selling sick puppies

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.

Some detective work by a Gainesville couple who thought they were buying a healthy puppy only to have it die days later from parvo virus helped lead to the arrest Monday of two Clay County residents on fraud charges.

Jessica Schulte, 22, and Osman Lopez, 21, were among seven North Florida residents who bought the puppies after seeing them on Craigslist, only to find that the animals were sick and the vaccination papers were fake.

“We bought her from this woman and within 24 hours she was throwing up. We took her to the vet and he said she had parvo. Four days later she died,” Schulte said of her boxer/lab mix named Kennedy. “We got hold of other people and it was the same thing, the same scam.”

Arrested Monday on charges of scheming to defraud were Justin Tyler Stone, 23, and Candice Desiree Mullis, 24, both of Middleburg, according to a Clay County Sheriff's Office arrest report.

Detective Bill Roberts said authorities know of seven victims. The Sheriff's Office first learned of the situation through a Jacksonville woman who bought a dog from the couple that also got sick and died. Prices ranged from $250 to $400.

Other victims posted warnings on Craigslist of the trouble with puppies from Mullis and Stone.

Schulte said she tried to contact Mullis after Kennedy got sick, but calls and emails were not answered. Schulte and Lopez got in contact with other victims after seeing warnings on Craigslist.

Meanwhile, puppies were still being sold. Schulte said she and Lopez used a different email address to set up a meeting to buy a puppy.

“We set up a fake meeting. Osman talked to her and pretended to be interested in the puppy and I took pictures of her and got her license number,” Schulte said. “It was really undercover, but it worked out. One of the other people that was scammed had a friend who was a private investigator. We gave them the license and they got a name back to us, and then we went to police with that.”

Among the puppies sold were boxer/lab mixes, a pit bull and chihuahuas, Roberts said, adding that some had been Christmas presents for children. All died.

Vaccination certificates are required for people selling dogs and cats. Alachua County Animal Services Director Vernon Sawyer said buyers should verify that before the purchase. People should also examine the site from which the dog is coming, he said.

But Sawyer recommended that people adopt animals from a shelter or rescue group.

“It's a buyer beware thing,” Sawyer said. “When you get your dog from a rescue group or Animal Services, you are getting a dog that you know has been treated and vaccinated.”

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