Omaha police made several arrests Thursday in connection with an operation believed to have been using threatening and aggressive tactics involving dogs as pawns to lure their victims.
The Nebraska Humane Society seized nine dogs. Twenty-eight-year-old Melissa Aguilar-Gonzalez, 51-year-old Judith Elizabeth-Malpartida and 39-year-old Gino Malpartida were taken into custody for harboring too many dogs in unsanitary conditions. They all had outstanding warrants from other states, including Iowa, Indiana and Florida. All had been in Omaha just a short time.
Obeli Escobar-Thomas was also booked on obstruction charges. The suspects appeared in court Friday and each received a high bond.
The dogs are in relatively good shape and in the care of the NHS. Their breeds vary from a Chihuahua to a German shepherd, great Dane and Saint Bernard. Investigators are trying to determine if any of the dogs had been stolen.
The NHS and police arrested the four at a house near 35th and Grand. “Police found these individuals hiding in the attic of the house where we served the search warrant, more than likely because they had felony warrants for their arrests,” said the Humane Society’s Mark Langan.
The alleged victims told Channel 6 News they would answer a Craigslist ad and then be threatened in person by the seller for more money.
“I love dogs.” T.J. got hate mail from the suspects after she bought a dog from them. “I will beat your monkey ass, you drove off like a punk bleep.” T.J., with a friend as backup, met one of the dog sellers in a north Omaha parking lot. “They tried to get more money out of me.” She had paid several hundred dollars to get the dog.
The women involved in this transaction said they left feeling threatened and worried about the conditions of the dogs. “Started calling me and threatening me, saying if I didn't want the dog bring it back and threatening bodily harm,” said T.J. "Yes, I was very scared."
Complaints led police and Humane Society officers to the rented house. All the seized dogs seemed to have been fed, but investigators believe conditions would have gotten worse the longer the animal were pawns in a bizarre scheme. “I felt they were enjoying being terroristic,” said T.J.