Kent dealers and vet jailed over sick horse fraud
Two horse dealers and a vet have been jailed for fraud after they colluded to sell ill, dangerous and lame horses to unsuspecting buyers.
Charlotte Johnson and Aniela Jurecka drugged horses and ponies and sold them as suitable for children from farms in Staplehurst and Marden, in Kent.
The pair recommended vet David Smith, 66, to buyers, who would then give the animals a clean bill of health.
All three were jailed for two and a half years at Maidstone Crown Court.
Judge Martin Joy described their actions as wicked and dangerous and said some of the horses were like "unexploded bombs".
In many cases the paperwork for the horses was altered, with prices for them ranging from £1,950 to £5,700.
Officers identified 17 victims of fraud, whose horses had become uncontrollable once the sedatives had worn off.
In one instance, a woman was left unable to walk for a year after being thrown from her horse.
Jurecka, 28, of Prospect Place, Collier Street, Tonbridge, Johnson, 28, of Tollgate Way, Sandling, and Smith, of The Street, Finglesham, Deal, were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
They were arrested following a large-scale operation involving Kent Police, Trading Standards and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Kent Police said Jurecka and Johnson advertised horses for sale in equestrian publications under the business names of SE Horses and Mid Kent Horses.
But text messages downloaded by detectives showed the pair were drugging horses to cover up poor behaviour and lameness.
After the hearing, Det Con Tracey Brightman said passing an injured horse as fit to ride and jump was "nothing short of cruel".
She said: "Unfortunately in some cases the horses were so ill they had to be euthanised, causing yet more distress to the new owners."
Det Ch Insp Neil Parker said: "These horses were not suitable to be ridden or kept as pets.
"We have heard of victims who have suffered significant injuries having been thrown from their horses, and in some cases the tragedy of having to pay for their horses to be put to sleep.
"This must have been truly harrowing and I can only imagine how upsetting this has been for them."