A “greedy” and fraudulent dealer who mis-sold horses with “catastrophic consequences” has been given a suspended prison sentence.
After an investigation by City of York Council’s trading standards team, Brooke Lee, 31, pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and one of money laundering, at York Crown Court on 17 July.
Lee, of Weston Drive, Otley, had sold as rideable a lame horse she had said she would keep for life, falsified a horse’s passport and claimed a 14-year-old mare was seven.
She had previously been investigated by trading standards for obtaining horses fraudulently and mis-describing them when they were sold at auction, for which she was given a nine-month suspended prison sentence in 2011.
The first fraud concerned a mare called Remedy, owned by two sisters, who could no longer be ridden owing to lameness and “numerous medical conditions”.
The sisters, while looking for another horse in April 2014, saw an advertisement for a gelding called Storm, who was being sold by Lee, under the alias Kate Jones.
It was agreed that the sisters would buy Storm, and Lee would give Remedy a retirement home.
“As part of the arrangement, the sisters made it abundantly clear to ‘Kate Jones’ that Remedy was lame and could not be ridden and their vet had also made a note of this condition in Remedy’s horse passport,” said a spokesman for the council.
On the day Storm was due to go to the sisters, Lee told them the horse had “suddenly and unexpectedly” had to be put down, but they still handed Remedy over, believing Lee would give her a home for life.
“Remedy’s former owner contacted Brooke Lee several times enquiring as to the horse’s welfare but did not receive any responses,” said the spokesman. “The former owner posted on various social media sites asking for information about Remedy.”
On 25 April 2014, Lee sold Remedy through York Auction Centre. She told the buyer, who wanted to compete the mare, that she was fit to be ridden.
She tampered with the passport to remove the vet’s note, and altered details of the mare’s previous owner.
“At her new home and as a consequence of being lame, Remedy threw off her new owner who sustained broken ribs,” said the spokesman.
The second fraud involved a mare called Summer, sold through the same auction centre in July 2015. Lee described the mare as seven years old, safe, and with experience at riding club level.
Once the horse was at her new home, the buyer became concerned and discovered Summer was 14, had previously been in RSPCA care and had not been ridden before.
It was also found that Lee had applied for a new passport for the mare three days before the auction, had falsified the mare’s details and forged a vet’s signatures. The original passport was found at Lee’s home.
"This was a despicable attempt to avoid justice by a crook desperate to save his own skin"
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A husband and wife team have pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation
Sentencing, Judge Stubbs QC said: “Eventually, you pleaded guilty to all offences, once at plea and trial preparation hearing, and then you strung out these proceedings entering dishonest ‘not guilty’ pleas that has incurred the delay.
“Horses destined for retirement were thereafter ridden with catastrophic consequences. You knew that. Still, your greed and desire for money led you to sell that horse on.
“You have done it before and behaved in a despicable way. You have shown a lack of remorse throughout proceedings. I hope anyone who employs you in the future hears of these offences.”
Lee was given a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 200 hours’ community service and repay £2,362.50.
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