A vet was one of three people found guilty of a scam involving selling sick and dangerous horses to unsuspecting buyers.

Smiffy
Police handout photo of an advert for a horse named Smiffy in an equestrian publication. Image: Kent Police/PA Wire.

Horse dealers Aniela Jurecka and Charlotte Johnson, both 28, were convicted along with vet David Smith, 66, of conspiring to con people into buying substandard horses.

Police said Jurecka and Johnson advertised horses for sale in equestrian publications. But text messages suggested the pair was drugging horses to mask poor behaviour or lameness. The two women would advise buyers to save money by using their recommended vet David Smith who would give the horses a clean bill of health.

Unsuitable animals

The prices for the horses ranged from £1,950 to £5,700 and police identified 17 victims of fraud. Some buyers were looking for animals suitable for children, detectives said.

One woman was left unable to walk for a year after being thrown from a horse with serious back problems, police added.

The horses were sold from Duckhurst Farm in Staplehurst and Great Thorn Farm in Marden, both in Kent, with certificates for good health provided by Smith at his vet’s practice in Capel Le Ferne, near Folkestone.

Undated Kent Police handout photo of an advert for a horse named Belle in an equestrian publication. Image: Kent Police/PA Wire.
Police handout photo of an advert for a horse named Belle in an equestrian publication. Image: Kent Police/PA Wire.

Fraud

Police launched an investigation after the first report was received by officers in October 2010, relating to a horse called Belle. The animal developed behavioural problems and was lame. After doing research, the victim found out the mare was a Thoroughbred, not an Irish sports horse, as advertised.

Following a lengthy and complex investigation, the trio was eventually charged with fraud in January last year.

On Monday, following a trial at Maidstone Crown Court, Jurecka, Johnson and Smith were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, Kent Police said.

Jurecka, of Collier Street, Tonbridge; Johnson, of Tollgate Way, Sandling; and Smith, of The Street, Finglesham, Deal, will be sentenced next month.

Huge profits

Detective Constable Tracey Brightman of Kent Police said: “These horses were obtained cheaply by Johnson and Jurecka because they had physical problems or aggressive tendencies.

“We believe their issues were masked with drugs supplied by Smith when a potential buyer came to try out the horse.

“The dealers made huge profits on unfit, ill and injured horses working with a veterinary surgeon to ensure their lies were covered with credibility. What they were doing was not only fraud, but also putting their customers in danger.”

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