North Hempstead, NY - March 15th, 2014 - Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the arrest today of a Suffolk County woman for filing false paperwork and making false representations to local animal shelters, including those operated by the Town of North Hempstead and the Town of Babylon, in order to take custody of dogs and sell the animals at a profit.
Lisette Tobon, 23, of Central Islip, was charged with two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 1st Degree (an E felony) and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the 2nd Degree (an A misdemeanor). If convicted of the top charge, Tobon faces a maximum sentence of 1-1/3 to 4 years in prison. Tobon was arraigned before Nassau County District Court Judge Scott Siller, conditionally released to probation, and is due back in court on March 18.
“Animal shelters are a taxpayer-funded service established to safeguard the animals under their care, and not a free pet store for people to make a profit,” DA Rice said. “These animals deserve to be adopted by people who will love and take care of them – not exploit them to make an easy buck.”
DA Rice said on Nov. 19, 2013, Tobon entered the Town of North Hempstead Animal Shelter in Port Washington and told a shelter employee that she wanted to adopt an 8-year-old Pekinese named “Willow” that she had previously seen on the town’s website. Tobon then filled out adoption paperwork consisting of an adoption contract, a New York State Dog License, and a Town of Hempstead Report of Disposition, listing an address in Rocky Point where she had not lived for several months and a false telephone number. Tobon took custody of the animal later that day.
In the Town of North Hempstead adoption contract, Tobon assented to various conditions of the adoption, including an agreement not to give away, sell, or dispose of the dog without the consent of the shelter. Another condition was that shelter staff had the right to follow up on the adoption by making a personal visit to the premises of the adopter to check up on the animal.
Within days a woman found an ad on Craigslist for a puppy for sale. The individual answered the ad and was contacted by text. After exchanging several text messages, she agreed to meet the seller – later identified by the woman as Tobon – at the Islandia Shopping Center. Tobon showed the dog for sale, telling the woman that the dog was approximately 3 years old and that she could no longer take care of the animal. Tobon sold the dog, later identified by shelter staff as Willow, to the woman for $200.
On Dec. 20, 2013, Tobon again contacted the shelter via phone, informing a shelter employee that she had seen another dog, a Husky named “Knuckles,” on the town’s website and that she was interested in adopting the animal as a playmate for Willow.
On Dec. 21, 2013, Tobon came to the shelter and asked to see Knuckles. Answering questions from shelter staff regarding the status of Willow, Tobon replied that she still had possession of the dog and that the dog was in good condition. When she said she wanted to adopt Knuckles, shelter staff told her that they knew about the Craigslist sale of Willow. When confronted, she left the shelter without the dog.
On Feb. 14, 2014 she entered the Town of Babylon Municipal Shelter, again provided the same false address and telephone number and attempted to adopt an animal, but was denied.
Town of North Hempstead shelter staff referred the matter to DA Rice’s office. Investigators later contacted other shelters to determine whether her conduct was repeated elsewhere. That investigation is ongoing.
Assistant District Attorney Brandon Sloane of DA Rice’s Animal Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case. Tobon is represented by Legal Aid Society.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.