NAUGATUCK — After a months-long investigation, police charged borough mastiff breeder Angie Fish on Monday with scamming customers from Maine to Alabama out of a combined total of more than $5,000 in deposits for puppies they were never given.
The Better Business Bureau forwarded six complaints to the Naugatuck Police Department after borough officers arrested Fish in August on a charge of fourth-degree larceny. In that case, police said a woman from Chester sent Fish a $1,200 deposit for a puppy she never got.
Detective Ronald Blanchard contacted the Better Business Bureau’s complainants and asked for records of their financial transactions and correspondence with Fish. Since February, an Alabama woman paid Fish more than $2,000 and a woman from Woodstock paid $1,700 for puppies they never got, police said. The remaining money came from prospective puppy buyers in Maine, New Jersey and New York, police said.
Blanchard said he reviewed the documents and came up with enough evidence to charge Fish with five larceny counts. Fish surrendered to police Monday and was released in lieu of $5,000 bond to appear Nov. 30 in Waterbury Superior Court.
Fish, who is 36 and lives in a trailer at 11½ Mulberry St., declined to comment on the charges in August and could not be reached Tuesday.
Customers said they were enticed by Fish’s well-designed, informative website, www.heskamastiffs.com, which is now disabled.
“They were all exactly the same story,” Blanchard said.
Fish was warm and communicative, connecting with her customers on Facebook and posting often, customers said. She told each customer there was a long waiting list for puppies that were about to be born, but she would reserve them for a price. Once Fish got her money, she stopped returning phone and email messages, customers said.
Fish posted various excuses on Facebook, including health and family problems. She eventually posted that all the puppies had died, while continuing to advertise puppies for sale.
Bobbi Jo Haverly, 32, of Johnstown, N.Y., said she sent Fish a $600 deposit in February for a puppy for her family, which includes three small children. On a message board for mastiff owners, Haverly found others who said Fish had stiffed them, and they created a private Facebook group to communicate about taking legal action.
Haverly said she was happy to hear Fish was being charged in her case.
“That’s awesome,” Haverly said. “Every day I think about it, and I haven’t given up hope that she would be brought to justice.”
Haverly’s family ended up buying another puppy from a breeder who did not ask for a deposit. Their new brindle English mastiff, Ross, turned 5 months old Monday.
“We learned a lot from this experience, and as far as having a wonderful dog we couldn’t have had a better turnout, but we want to make sure (Fish) doesn’t continue to buy and sell,” Haverly said.
A woman from Marlborough told authorities she paid $1,800 for a puppy from Fish in 2008, which she received, but it became ill and died within months, according police. That case will not be investigated criminally, but can be pursued in civil court, police said.
Borough police are not currently investigating any more complaints against Fish, Blanchard said.