Fri, 20 Jul 2018
A MEMBER of a puppy dealing gang who fled to West Berkshire has been jailed for his role in the fraud and animal welfare offences.
The gang made an estimated £2.5m selling more than 5,000 puppies across London and the South East.
They imported puppies from Ireland before advertising them online as ‘home-bred’ and selling them to unsuspecting members of the public.
The RSPCA launched ‘Operation Adder’ following complaints from a number of people who had bought puppies which had fallen ill and, in some cases, died.
Edward Stokes, 35, of Tenaplas Drive, Upper Basildon, was handed a suspended two-year prison sentence for his part in the fraud.
He also received a lifetime ban on keeping dogs after admitting one offence of conspiracy to commit fraud and one animal welfare offence.
But yesterday (Thursday) the Court of Appeal increased the sentences of the gang, after the Attorney General appealed the "unduly lenient" sentences.
Mr Stokes' sentence was increased to four years and eight months in prison. His disqualification remains.
RSPCA Inspector Kirsty Withnall, who led the investigation, said: “The Attorney General applied to appeal the sentences that three of the gang members and the vet received as being unduly lenient.
“The puppy trade causes serious suffering and this case involved many sick and dying puppies and resulted in heartbreak for unsuspecting owners.”
The gang was broken up in May 2016 when RSPCA officers and teams from the Metropolitan Police raided four addresses in Hayes, West London, removing 46 dogs and puppies from unsuitable conditions and discovering four dead puppies wrapped in plastic bags.
Three of the bitches, who were pregnant when they were seized, went on to have a total of 16 puppies, although one was stillborn.
Stokes, previously of Rosedale Avenue, Hayes, London, moved to West Berkshire, where he continued to sell puppies despite the ongoing investigation.
But the law caught up with him and a warrant was executed at his new address, where nine more dogs were seized.
His sentencing was adjourned from May 22, when the other gang members and a vet who helped the group were all sentenced for their part in the lucrative operation.
Three men and two women were sentenced last month, and also the vet, having been convicted of a fraud offence for conspiring with the gang.
One other woman was sentenced at a previous hearing in September 2017, while another woman received a caution for her involvement.
Simon O’Donnell, previously of Bradenham Road, Hayes, was originally sentenced to three years in prison and was disqualified from keeping dogs for life. He was also ordered to pay £170 victim surcharge.
The Court of Appeal increased his sentence to four years in prison. His disqualification remains.
Thomas Stokes, previously of Coldharbour Lane, Hayes, was jailed for three years and disqualified from keeping dogs for life. He was also ordered to pay a £170 victim surcharge.
His sentence was increased to four years and eight months in prison. His disqualification remains.
Vet Daniel Doherty, of Wood Lane, Iver Heath, operated two My Vets surgeries in Uxbridge, west London, where he conspired with the gang to commit fraud by falsifying vaccination cards to help them sell the pups.