1. ITV Report

Four spared jail over puppy farm fraud at Essex travellers' site

A puppy farm gang from Essex has been spared jail over the fraudulent sale of dogs bred in poor conditions.

The animals were advertised online as being home-reared but were actually kept in cages in dark sheds at an Essex travellers' site, with three dying, four more put to sleep and others suffering serious health problems.

One of the dogs was "vomiting worms", some of its fur fell out and it had blood in its faeces, Basildon Crown Court heard.

Three women and a man admitted fraud at an earlier hearing at Basildon Crown Court.

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Hazel Stevens, prosecuting, said more than 700 puppies were falsely advertised to the public and they had an average price of £450.

The court heard that the estimated value of the fraud was between £100,000 and £500,000, and the defence argue it was towards the lower end of this scale.

Judge David Owen-Jones, sentencing at Basildon Crown Court, said: "This conspiracy was a sophisticated enterprise that required planning."

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Teresa Wade, 57, and Victoria Montgomery, 55, both from Essex, changed their pleas to guilty during a lengthy earlier trial.

Wade was sentenced to 21 months in prison suspended for two years.

Victoria Montgomery received a 14-month sentence suspended for two years.

Both were handed a three-month curfew from 8pm to 7am monitored by electronic tag.

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Roxanne Montgomery, 33, and Tony Hammond, 35, both from Essex, pleaded guilty ahead of the trial.

Montgomery and Hammond were both sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for two years.

They were also ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work.

All four defendants were ordered to pay £500 each in costs.

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Hammond and Roxanne Montgomery had admitted fraud on the basis that they allowed puppies to be delivered to their home in Grafton Road, Dagenham, just before purchasers attended, but they did not breed the puppies themselves and believed they were healthy.

Ms Stevens said the puppies were bred at Wade's home in Ship Lane, Aveley.

Sara Lise-Howe, mitigating for Wade, said her client "had fallen on very hard times", believed the puppies were healthy when they were sold and had suffered health problems following a car crash.

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James McPherson, mitigating for Victoria Montgomery, who was sentenced in her absence as the court heard she was in hospital, said his client was a full-time carer for her son, and her husband had died in 2016 in circumstances which were under investigation.

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Anthony Marshall, mitigating for Roxanne Montgomery, said Montgomery was a single mother with three children under the age of 12, though she received support from her former partner, Tony Hammond, who is the father of the children.

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Richard Keogh, mitigating for Hammond, said Hammond was "shocked" to hear of the puppies' health problems and "broke ranks" by entering an early guilty plea.

Animal cruelty charges are set to be pursued against Wade and Victoria Montgomery in a separate magistrates' court case.

Credit: RSPCA