Two dealers and a vet who worked together to con buyers into purchasing unsuitable horses have been sent to prison.
Aniela Jurecka, Charlotte Johnson and vet David Smith (pictured, below) were each sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ jail for conspiracy to commit fraud.
They will serve half behind bars and the remainder on licence.
The packed courtroom heard details of the collusion, which saw dangerous, lame and unsuitable horses sold to unsuspecting buyers. Often these horses were for children, teenagers or novice adults.
“The evidence is so serious that a non-custodial sentence cannot be justified,” said his hon judge Joy.
Johnson broke down in tears during the sentencing and Jurecka wiped her eyes while the judge gave his summing up.
Each of the defendants’ barristers gave character testimonials in favour of the trio.
Following this, judge Joy summed up the proceedings and gave detail of the sentencing guidelines as well as how he had taken into account statements in support of the defendents.
But he highlighted to the court the damaging impact the trio’s actions had had on not only their victims, but also the wider public’s perception of vets, dealers and the equine industry.
“The animals were said to be like unexploded bombs,” he told the court. “But they had been advertised, presented and certified as docile and suitable for beginners.
“That was wicked and dangerous and criminal.”
Jurecka, 28, of Prospect Place, Collier Street in Tonbridge; Johnson, 28, of Tollgate Way, Sandling, and 66-year-old Smith, whose address was given at the time of the trial as The Street, Finglesham, Deal, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation on 13 June, following a 14-week trial at the same court.
They were arrested after a large-scale operation, which involved Kent Police, Trading Standards and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).
The court heard how Jurecka and Johnson 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.
The two women would then recommend vet Smith, who would 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 sedative Sedalin.
Due to the number of victims coming forward, the investigation was a complex and large enquiry. The trio were charged with fraud in January 2015.