Teen Arrested for Extortion of Missing Dog

October 30, 2008 6:49:06 PM PDT
A 17 year-old is in jail after trying to extort money from a South Valley family who is missing their dog.Kevin and Jaclene Swarm have been hanging posters like this in their neighborhood, asking anyone who may have seen their missing dog to call them. Earlier this week they had a glimpse of hope. Instead, it was just someone trying to extort money from them.

This 5-year old St. Bernard mix named "Benna" has been missing for two weeks. Jaclene Swarm says "We have another dog and they broke through the fence and she followed him. She just never came home. He came home but she never came back."

Jaclene says her family is devastated to lose "Benna" and that their other dog, "Milk Dud," misses her so much that he hasn't been eating. Jaclene Swarm says "We just want our dog back. We want our baby."

On Monday, the Swarm family was thrilled to get a call from someone who claimed he had their dog. The person on the other line spoke Spanish and demanded money in exchange for the dog. But the Swarmes knew something was wrong when the person never showed up to their house.

Shawnda Gibson from Tulare Code Enforcement says "We, fortuantely, have an office assistant that speaks fluent Spanish so we had had her call. She offered him $20 and he said 'No, that wasn't enough. I'll call you back.'"

Jaclene Swarm says "It's just surreal. I can't believe someone would have that in them."

Tulare Code Enforcement seized telephone records and found out that a 17-year old boy made the calls. He was arrested for felony extortion.

Gibson says "It's a felony and the dog is still missing. He didn't have the dog at his residence so we're still looking for the dog. Benna is still out there somewhere."

Jaclene Swarm says "She's so timid and she's so sweet. It's hard for me to think of her being out there and alone or scared or maybe even being hurt. It's hard to sleep at night."

Tulare Code Enforcement says cases like this come up more often than one might think. There have even been cases where dogs are held ransom until the owner produces the amount of money the person wants.

Benna is a Collie-St. Bernard mix. She is 70 pounds, wears a red collar, has a white face with light brown spots and is 5 years old. If you find her, you're asked to call (559) 827-5222.

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