Facebook scheme lands 2 in jail
An Andalusia woman, believed to be at the heart of a nationwide scheme to scam pet lovers out of more than $25,000 in cash and thousands more in pet supplies, has been arrested by the Andalusia Police Department.
Sharlotte Marie Adams is the 30-year-old operator of Animal Aid and Rescue Resources Inc. The operation focused mainly on the rescue and adoption of cats and was centered inside Adams’ home on Lori Lane.
Lt. Paul Dean said a month-long investigation, headed by Inv. Jason Curry, began on Oct. 31 after a Georgia resident filed a complaint about the organization’s business practices.
Records showed Adams used a Facebook site to set up an account for the Rescue, Dean said.
“From this account, persons were directed through hyper links to pages such as Amazon.com and Walmart.com, where Adams had compiled ‘wish lists’ where people could purchases items, which would then be shipped to Adams’ residence,” he said. “This was the legitimate side of the business.”
It is believed that Adams soon took advantage of peoples’ generosity by using cash donations – solicited under the guise of treating sick animals – to pay for personal items such as electric bills and groceries for the family.
Dean said people gave more than $25,000, and the number could climb as the investigation continues.
Dean said at one point, Adams claimed to have been a victim of a burglary where all the animal supplies were stolen from a local storage facility.
“That claim was completely false,” he said.
Dean said the investigation has confirmed victims of this scam in the states of Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana, and the department has fielded calls concerning the business from persons in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona.
“The true number of victims may never be known because of the number of people that Adams was able to reach via the Internet,” he said.
When investigators executed a search warrant at the Lori Lane home, they found deplorable living conditions, Dean said.
“There were a total of 26 animals – 18 cats, three adult dogs and five small puppies – living in that home, along with two adults and two children,” he said. “The living conditions inside this residence were not suitable for animals, let alone a human being.”
He said that was the specific reason that Adams and her husband, Joseph, are charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Mr. Adams was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and cruelty to animals. He posted a $1,500 bond and was released.
“An adult has a choice of the type of environment they live in; a child does not,” he said. “As parents, we are responsible for providing our children with the best living conditions that we can.”
Dean said, “It is a well known fact that animal lovers are very generous and do not hesitate to help out in a time of need. This is a perfect example of the generosity of others being preyed upon.
“I would caution anyone planning to make donations to any type of organization,” he said. “Make sure that you research the entity and confirm that the money you send will be used for the proper cause.”
Adams is charged with first-degree theft of property, two counts of child endangerment and one count of animal cruelty. She was booked into the Covington County Jail under a $21,500 bond. Dean said Adams also received two municipal court summons for operating a business without a license and operating a business in a restricted zone.