A woman who allegedly filed false paperwork at a Port Washington animal shelter in order to adopt a dog and sell it for a profit was arrested on March 14 and charged with filing false paperwork and making false representations to local animal shelters.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said on Nov. 19, 2013, 23-year-old Lisette Tobon of Central Islip entered the Town of North Hempstead Animal Shelter 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, according to Rice. 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.
“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,” 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.”
On Dec. 20, 2013, Rice said 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, Tobon allegedly 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 Rice’s office and investigators later contacted other shelters to determine whether her conduct was repeated elsewhere. That investigation is ongoing.
Tobon is charged with two counts of offering a false instrument for filing and one count of scheme to defraud. If convicted of the top charge, Tobon faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison.