Rockingham woman sentenced over Gumtree puppy scam

Pug puppy for sale.
Pug puppy for sale.

AN eight-year-old girl and an 80-year-old man were just two victims of a ‘puppy for sale’ scam run on Gumtree by a Rockingham woman.

The woman made close to $7500 from the scam where she pretended to have puppies for sale but never did.

Estelle Makwana appeared in Rockingham Magistrates Court for sentencing on 10 charges of gaining benefit by fraud after pleading guilty at an earlier date.

The prosecutor said Makwana responded to the victims’ own advertisements wanting certain breeds of puppy.

She responded to the ads stating she had the particular puppy and gave bank details asking for a deposit to be paid in full.

On September 8, 2017 one victim placed an ad wanting a pug puppy.

Makawana responded stating she had a pug puppy for sale and requested a $500 deposit be paid in full first and also used the fake name of Sarah Hawkins.

After the money was paid Makawana ceased all contact with the victim.

One the same day she posted that she had a Macaw for sale and again requested $500 and once it was deposited she ceased all contact with the victim.

She responded to more ads from separate victims wanting different breeds; twice for a King Charles cavalier puppy, and a labrador puppy and rottweiler puppy.

She never owned any of the animals and in one instance took money from a mother who wanted to purchase a puppy for her daughter.

In two cases she later contacted the victim stating the puppy had died and that they had to pay the vet and cremation fees.

In one of those cases she requested a $660 deposit from an 80-year-old man who she later contacted telling him the pup had died and she wanted more money for vet and cremation costs.

The duty lawyer said she accepted the facts in full and was extremely remorseful.

She said the offending was because of financial stress after a marriage breakdown.

She said Makana had a prior record for stealing offences and had returned the money to one victim.

Magistrate Vivien Edwards said there was more than a financial impact to the victims.

“Not only have the victims lost significant sums of money to you but they would have suffered some hurt because of your actions,” she said.

She placed Makana on a 12 month community based Order with supervision and programs and ordered restitution to all of the victims.

A Gumtree spokeswoman said the organisation aimed to facilitate a safe, responsible and successful pet trade.

“Our pet policy was developed in conjunction with the RSPCA to ensure that pet’s safety is put first,” she said.

“While most community members have a positive experience finding a safe and caring home for a pet, scammers do target Gumtree.

“The number one safety tip for Gumtree users is to use common sense online.

“A transaction should always be made face-to-face with the buyer and seller, with an onsite payment made once the pet has been seen.

“We also encourage our community to use the ‘Report Ad’ function should they find a pet’s listing that does not adhere to our policy.”

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