A 55-yead-old Indianapolis man is behind bars today for allegedly scamming dog owners and stealing their beloved pets.
After a three-month investigation, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) and Indianapolis Animal Care and Control (IACC) arrested convicted felon Johnny Jones for alleged dog theft; they also discovered four stolen dogs and a stash of illegal firearms while searching Jones’s home on the east side of Indianapolis.
Jones’s arrest is a chilling reminder of a disturbing national trend called “dog flipping,” a practice that is sweeping the Internet in this increasingly digital age. The “flipper” or broker will adopt, buy or even steal a desirable dog, then turn around and sell that animal for a profit, often advertising the animals on online forums like Craigslist. According to a CBS 6 News from 2012, dog flipping has become a real problem in the past five to six years.
“Many of these pets are housed in puppy mill-like conditions until they can be flipped—no food or water, caged and sick,” warns Indianapolis Animal Care and Control (IACC) representative Dawn Contos. “Many times these animals that can’t be flipped are dumped to fend for themselves.”
Dogs that are sold in dog-flipping schemes sometimes end up in loving homes with people who are none the wiser about their new dog’s origins, but often flipped dogs are sold to dog fighting operations as bait dogs or to puppy mills looking for new breeding stock. Flippers tend to seek out the dogs they feel will bring in the most profit, not caring where these pets end up.
According to a report on TheIndyChannel.com, Jones typically targeted large breed purebred dogs in his flipping operation, usually Rottweilers and German Shepherds. He also flipped several Pit Bull Terriers for money using ads posted on Craigslist. But dog flippers across the country are targeting desirable dogs of all breeds and sizes.
Deputy Chief of Animal Control Marcus Brown tells Fox 59 News that Jones posed as a dog trainer to trick unsuspecting owners into handing over their pets.
One of those owners is Ben Eiler, who trusted Jones with the care of his German Shepherd, Ceazer, during a particularly difficult time. Eiler and his wife were in the process of relocating, and could not take Ceazer with them until they found a more permanent living situation.
Without much money or another place to turn, Eiler took to Craigslist hoping to find a kind and experienced person who would be willing to care for Ceazer on a temporary basis. That’s when Eiler received a message from a man claiming to be an experienced trainer of German Shepherds like Ceazer; that man was Johnny Jones.
“He claimed he had five of them at home that he was training,” Eiler explains. “He just said that he would be very willing to take him and take care of him and if we got back on our feet one day we could come and get him back.”
Soon after parting with Ceazer, Eiler and his wife settled into a stable home. When Eiler tried to contact Jones to reclaim Ceazer, Jones gave him a fake address and then cut off all contact. Despite countless attempts to reach Jones, Eiler was unsuccessful. Eiler knew then that he had been duped, and Ceazer was likely long gone.
“When we lost him it was like losing a family member,” Eiler remembers.
Devastated, Eiler contacted police about Johnny Jones. The investigation soon revealed that Jones was trying to sell multiple dogs—including Ceazer — for a profit.
“He actually had listed their animal on Craigslist for sale,” Deputy Brown explains.
As investigators closed in on Jones’s operation, hoping to bring down the convicted felon and perhaps even recover Ceazer, Jones attempted to flee. In the process of trying to escape, Jones released a dog into the street. The terrified Shepherd fled into the surrounding neighborhood. As officers cuffed Johnny Jones and led him away in a squad car, a Good Samaritan was able to catch the stolen dog and take him to a nearby animal clinic. Clinic staff scanned the Shepherd for a microchip and found that he belonged to Ben Eiler. Ceazer would finally be able to go home to his worried family.
Eiler thanks his lucky stars that he and his wife made the decision to have Ceazer microchipped, and hopes other dog owners will follow suit and microchip their four-legged family members.
“If we didn’t have that we probably wouldn’t have Ceazer right now,” Eiler explains.