An international puppy smuggling ring has been jailed for a total of 18 years for selling animals online that had been so badly treated they died before they new owners got them home.
The gang of smugglers, many of them from the Irish Cawley traveller family, made more than £300,000 in a sophisticated fraud designed to dupe innocent dog owner’s out of their hard-earned cash.
Sentencing the 13 defendants today, Judge Francis Sheridan said: ‘You have all played your part in this disgusting trade and you preyed upon the kindness of British citizens.’
The gang would smuggle several dogs into the UK from southern Ireland a day.
The gang of smugglers, many of them from the Irish Cawley traveller family, made more than £300,000 in a sophisticated fraud designed to dupe innocent dog owner’s out of their hard-earned cash
The gang would smuggle several dogs into the UK from southern Ireland a day
Earlier, prosecutor Hazel Stevens revealed that excited new owners were horrified when their adorable pets started falling sick before they even got them home, with some being so riddled with disease, they could not survive.
Judge Sheridan heard how the Cawleys, now from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, used frontman Daniel Yeboah, aged 45 years, to place numerous adverts under false names before luring unsuspecting families into buying the smuggled puppies – often out of pity for the conditions in which they were being kept.
Mrs Stevens told the judge: ‘Many people purchasing a puppy, naturally became excited and invested time and emotion as well as money into their puppy. They chose a name and planned the arrival of their new family member and were left devastated when the puppy was sick and in some cases died.
Pictured: Police officers raid the trailers where the smugglers would keep their dogs
‘The use of these animals as a commodity without care for their welfare and for the effect on the purchasers and children in their family, is something that the RSPCA, other animal welfare charities and the Government have been working very hard to stop.’
In a harrowing victim impact statement, Kimberley Duffy, an innocent puppy buyer who had brought her Shih Tzu puppy Barnaby from the swindlers, told the court how the scam had affected her family.
She said: ‘When I went to see Barnaby and heard he was being bullied by another dog, I instantly decided to take him home. I then decided to surprise my partner at work with Barnaby on her lunch break and video her reaction.
Sentencing the 13 defendants today, Judge Francis Sheridan said: ‘You have all played your part in this disgusting trade and you preyed upon the kindness of British citizens’
‘She was extremely excited and surprised as he was an early Christmas present. When the children came home that evening, they too were extremely excited and we all bonded with him instantly.’
However, the court heard that their dream soon turned into a nightmare, as Barnaby became ill when he arrived home and after a visit to the vet, Ms Duffy and her partner ended up staying awake all night to feed him.
Ms Duffy explained what happened next: ‘Myself and my partner stayed up all night with Barnaby, giving hourly food, fluids and medication. By 4.30am we decided on one more dose and then allowed him to rest.
‘Being exhausted ourselves we fell asleep. At 7.15am on Thursday, October 24, 2019, we were awoken by the traumatic cries of our 11-year-old son who had been into our room and found Barnaby no longer breathing.
Daniel Yeboah, of Avon House, Bletchley, and John Cawley (right), 24, of Willen Caravan Site, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, were jailed for 42 months for their role in the smuggling while Joseph Cawley Senior (left), 44, of Willen Caravan Site, was jailed for 45 months
‘Myself and my partner tried in vain to revive him while our children looked on traumatised and heartbroken. At 7.34am we decided to stop trying. We both broke down in tears, absolutely devastated that our little fur baby hadn’t survived despite our desperate tireless efforts to do all we could.’
The court heard that with vet bills and the price of buying Barnaby from the Cawleys the Duffys lost more than £1,300.
Describing their emotions, Ms Duffy said: ‘We feel utter anger, frustration and are furious at the lies we were told by the seller, the sheer neglect and trauma Barnaby suffered at the hands of these vile people.
‘The events that took place that morning, the screams and the devastation from our children and the loss and heartbreak will forever haunt us and is irreparable.’
In a harrowing victim impact statement, Kimberley Duffy, an innocent puppy buyer who had brought her Shih Tzu puppy Barnaby from the swindlers, told the court how the scam had affected her family
The couple’s six-year-old son Beaux said: ‘I feel really sad that Barnaby died and I feel angry at his old owners because they didn’t feed him and look after him like we did. I really miss Barnaby and wish he was still at home with us, I just want Barnaby back.’
Today after a two-day sentencing hearing at Aylesbury Crown Court, Judge Sheridan said: ‘Not one of the defendants in this case should ever be given a licence to breed animals.
‘The effects referred to in this case cannot be regarded by the public as anything other than utterly abhorrent.
‘This is a trade in cruelty and misery for the animals and the human beings who sought to buy them. The protection of the public must be foremost in my mind.
‘This is a massive industry and that is all it is, an industry of misery.’
The judge warned consumers to be vigilant when buying dogs from the website Pets4Homes
The judge also warned consumers to take care when they bought dogs from the website Pets4Homes, which had been used to facilitate the sale of many of the scammers’ puppies.
At an earlier hearing, most of the defendants had admitted conspiring to dishonestly making false representations to make a gain for themselves while other charges included failing to fulfil the duty of a person responsible for an animal to ensure its welfare and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.
Daniel Yeboah, of Avon House, Bletchley, and John Cawley, 24, of Willen Caravan Site, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, were jailed for 42 months for their role in the smuggling while Joseph Cawley Senior, 44, of Willen Caravan Site, was jailed for 45 months.
A tearful Margaret Cawley, 46, also of Willen Caravan Site who was described by Judge Sheridan as ‘at the heart of the conspiracy’, was jailed for 45 months.
Joseph Cawley Junior (right), who was a youth at the time of offences, received a community order that will last for 24 months, including 150 hours of unpaid work and 30 rehabilitation activity days. Annalise Cawley (left), 22, of Willen Caravan Site, was handed 12 months in prison, suspended for two years as well as a requirement to complete 20 rehabilitation activity days and 150 hours of unpaid work
Michael Cawley, 41, of Reeves Croft, Milton Keynes, whom the court heard had gained more than £54,000 out of the scam, was jailed for 27 months.
Austin Paice, 34, of Whaddon Way, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, was jailed for 13 months alongside another frontman for the operation John O’Brien, 49, of Grangers Croft, Milton Keynes.
O’Brien’s wife Wendy, 32, also of Grangers Croft, was told she only avoided jail because she needed to care for her children while her husband was in jail. She was instead handed a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for two years.
Mrs O’Brien will also be subject to a three-month curfew between 6pm and 5am and will have to pay £1,000 in compensation to the victims of the scam.
Rebecca Hall, 30, of Shepherds Close, Newport Pagnell, who allowed her house to be used to sell puppies, was handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years and ordered to pay £750 in compensation, which will be split between the victims of the fraud.
Mary Ward-Jackson, 31, of also Reeves Croft, Milton Keynes, the wife of Michael Cawley, was given three months in prison, suspended for two years, as well as a requirement to complete 20 rehabilitation activity days.
Joseph Cawley Junior, who was a youth at the time of offences, received a community order that will last for 24 months, including 150 hours of unpaid work and 30 rehabilitation activity days.
Annalise Cawley, 22, of Willen Caravan Site, was handed 12 months in prison, suspended for two years as well as a requirement to complete 20 rehabilitation activity days and 150 hours of unpaid work.
James Yeboah, 43, of Avon House, Bletchley, was given nine months in prison, suspended for two years.
In addition, he will have to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £330.54 of prosecution costs and £669.46 of compensation to the victims of the scam.
Incensed Judge Sheridan banned each of the 13 defendants from owning or controlling any animals for the next 10 years, except for Wendy O’Brien and Rebecca Hall, who were allowed to look after their existing family pets.
Ending the hearing, Judge Sheridan told the packed courtroom he would do what he could to reimburse the victims of the scam. He said: ‘I will try to reimburse them so they can buy a puppy from a legitimate breeder if that is what they want to do.
‘Some of them I suspect will never want an animal again because of the misery they have been through.’
A Pets4Homes: ‘As the UK’s most popular pet rehoming site, we help over 2,500 animals find loving homes each day, and, thankfully, cases such as this are incredibly rare.
‘The events of this case occurred before Pets4Homes came under new management, as well as the introduction of security checks including enhanced ID verification, a dedicated 24 hour Trust & Safety team reviewing adverts, and a deposit scheme which only transfers payment once a pet buyer is satisfied.
‘These, and other security features, make it near impossible for people like those convicted to be able to exploit the goodwill of our users and community in 2021.
‘We are proud to be the safest marketplace in the UK for the rehoming of pets and have a zero tolerance policy towards any attempt to exploit British pet lovers.
‘We always collaborate with the authorities in investigations and the preparation of prosecutions, and are proud to play a part in bringing such evil individuals to justice.’