Lawyer: Dognapping woman has an obsessive urge to steal
A notorious fraudster admitted committing a host of scams including dognapping a puppy on Christmas Eve, stealing credit cards and swindling car buyers out of money.
Mother-of-three Wendy Francis even altered a cheque made out to her own husband in order to con one of his customers out of cash.
Francis — a former caregiver for the elderly — suffers from kleptomania, which is an obsessive and motiveless urge to steal, according to her defence lawyer.
Rick Woolridge suggested that since prison sentences, counselling and probation have failed to stop the one-woman crime wave, overseas treatment might.
It took prosecutor Tawana Tannock an hour to read out all the charges 40-year-old Francis faced yesterday, together with a summary of what she did.
She explained how Marie Lusher of St Georges purchased a Shih Tzu puppy named Liam in late 2011 from Francis, who sold him from a litter shed bred. Mrs Lusher paid $2,000 and took Liam home on December 11 2011.
On December 24, Francis told Mrs Lusher she needed to use the dog for a photo shoot. She visited her at home to take pictures of him, accompanied by her three daughters. Liam then followed Francis out of the gate, and Francis returned to the home to tell Mrs Lusher the puppy had gone missing.
The anguished owner made a public appeal for the dogs safe return. It was spotted by a woman who had bought him from Francis just an hour after the defendant dognapped him from the Lusher residence.
The new buyer contacted the police, and the dogs microchip confirmed he was the same creature. Liam was reunited with his original purchasers three days after Christmas.
A month before the puppy theft, Francis stole a credit card from the daughter-in-law of an elderly woman she was caring for. Francis swiped the card when Mary Winchell of Hamilton Parish was visiting her mother-in-law at her home, where Francis was employed to look after her.
She then went on a spending spree at stores including Gorhams, Chopsticks, AS Cooper and Shelly Bay MarketPlace, buying $1,343 worth of items. She was caught when Mrs Winchell reported the matter to police. Detectives reviewed CCTV footage from some of the stores, which showed Francis making the purchases.
In March 2012, Francis embroiled her own husband, Benjamin Francis, in a scam. Mr Francis had been paid $150 by cheque by Donna Furbert for repairing a bedroom wall. His wife changed the words and letters on the cheque to read $1,050, and then cashed it at the Money Shop.
In May 2011, Francis stole a credit card from Marcia Talbot, the daughter of an 86-year-old woman named Blossom Talbot, who Francis was caring for through her job with Elder Care. Francis took the card when the victim was visiting the elderly lady, then used it to rack up more than $6,000 worth of purchases including groceries from Lindos in Warwick. When the police were called in, they spotted Francis on the Lindos TV cameras.
In July and August 2012, Francis used an advertisement on the classifieds website eMoo to con five people out of money in relation to a car sale (see second story). Francis pleaded guilty to a total of 36 charges relating to the five separate scams when she appeared before magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo yesterday.
She has more than 20 previous offences of dishonesty. Mr Woolridge said jail sentences, probation orders and counselling have failed to address her offending behaviour. He asked Mr Tokunbo to order pre-sentence reports including a psychological assessment to see if treatment could help.
This is not something thats going to be fixed by incarceration, he said, explaining that her husband is at his wits end and doesnt know what to do.
He explained that Francis is not stealing due to substance addiction or poverty.
There appear to be problems underlying the problems and we cannot solve them by locking someone away, he said.
For societys sake and for Ms Franciss sake, and for the sake of her children, we need to find another solution because what we have tried over and over again is not working.
The magistrate ordered the suggested reports and remanded Francis into custody until her sentencing in January.
Speaking after the case, Mrs Lushers husband Bill declined to discuss the puppy theft in detail, but said: Liam is in wonderful shape. Hes a happy, loving little dog who suffered no ill effects from the experience and we are delighted to have him back. We would like to thank everybody involved in helping us.
l Are you a victim of Wendy Francis? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 278-0156.