Animal shelters in North Hempstead and Babylon served as prey for a Central Islip woman who made false claims in order to take custody of dogs and sell them for profit, officials say.
Now, Lisette Tobon, 23, of Central Islip, faces felony charges. She was arrested Friday.
“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,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said, in a statement. “These animals deserve to be adopted by people who will love and take care of them – not exploit them to make an easy buck.”
Back on Nov. 19, 2013, Tobon entered the Town of North Hempstead Animal Shelter in Port Washington and told an employee that she wanted to adopt an 8-year-old Pekinese named “Willow” that she had seen on the town’s website, according to the DA’s office. Tobon filled out the necessary adoption paperwork – 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 the dog home later that day.
In the Town of North Hempstead adoption contract, Tobon agreed not to give away, sell, or dispose of the dog without the consent of the shelter, according to DA’s office. Tobon also agreed to another condition in the contract, which stated 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.
Days later, a woman found a Craigslist ad for a puppy for sale. She answered the ad and was contacted by text, the DA's office said. 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.
Somewhere in the interim, the shelter contacted the DA's office about the sale.
Then, on Dec. 20, 2013, officials say Tobon again called the shelter about a Husky named “Knuckles,” whom she’d seen on the town’s website and said she was interested in adopting the animal as a playmate for Willow, the Nassau DA’s office said. That day, 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, and provided the same false address and telephone number and attempted to adopt an animal, but was denied, the DA's office said.
Investigators are in contact with other shelters to determine if this conduct was repeated elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Tobon, who is represented by Legal Aid Society, was charged with two counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree and one count of scheme to defraud in the second degree, the DA's office said. If convicted of the top charge, Tobon faces a maximum sentence of 1-1/3 to 4 years in prison.
She was arraigned by Nassau County District Court Judge Scott Siller and conditionally released to probation.She is is due back in court on March 18.