The sentencing of horse dealers Aniela Jurecka, 28, Charlotte Johnson, 28, and vet David Smith, 66 – who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday 13 June – took place from 10am on Monday 11 July.
Horse & Hound‘s reporter Lucy Elder was in the court providing up-to-the-minute updates via our live blog below. Scroll through to find out how the sentencing unfolded.
What’s happened so far…
The two horse dealers and vet were arrested after a large-scale operation, which involved Kent Police, Trading Standards and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). The trio were charged with fraud in January 2015.
The trial at Maidstone County Court lasted 14-weeks before the trio were convicted of a “large-scale fraud” where they colluded to sell ill and dangerous horses to “unsuspecting buyers” on Monday 13 June.
During the trial, the court heard how Jurecka, of Prospect Place, Collier Street in Tonbridge, and Johnson, of Tollgate Way, Sandling, advertised horses for sale in equestrian publications.
Text messages seen by detectives suggested the pair were drugging horses to cover-up poor behaviour and lameness.
Jurecka and Johnson would recommend vet Smith to undertake the horses’ pre-purchase vettings, who would then give the horses a clean bill of health. In many cases, the paperwork for the horses was altered. Horses were sold for between £1,950 and £5,700.
On 31 May 2013, police executed a warrant at Lakeview Veterinary Centre in Capel Le Ferne, where Smith was practising. They seized information from computers, which uncovered poor record-keeping by Smith, in particular surrounding the supply of Modecate — a long-acting sedative.
Several text messages sent to Smith by the dealers were also uncovered by the detectives where Jurecka asked Smith for Modecate and Sedalin.
Due to the number of victims coming forward, the investigation was a complex and large enquiry taking a considerable time to complete.