Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Soutullo Guilty
A South Florida woman is no longer in the puppy business after a judge orders her to stop selling dogs. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- Julie Soutullo: "I'm on vacation for three years."
Julie Soutullo was explaining her casual dress for court. She calls the next three years a vacation. Authorities call it probation during which she is banned from the puppy business, but clearly she and her husband have a plan.
Armando Soutullo: "I am continue in the business."
Carmel Cafiero: "You're going to continue the business?"
Armando Soutullo: "Yeah."
Julie Soutullo: "He's not on trial."
Julie Soutullo has sold puppies in South Florida for years under several names, most recently Poochie Koochie and for years customers have complained.
Fran Miller: "I'm an investigator with the state attorney's office in Dade County."
In December of 2007, a team of investigators hit Soutullo with a search warrant at her home.
Kathleen Labrada: "This woman has a history of selling sick animals and just tearing people's families apart."
Soutullo was later charged with three counts of violating Florida's pet lemon law by misrepresentating her puppies and not providing vet certificates, while the case was pending complaints continued.
Belinda Cromp: "It was going to be my birthday present."
Belinda Cromp told us Soutullo sold her a puppy with a bad heart. Kim Gallagher told us she bought a dog from Soutullo online, but she was sent a different dog twice.
Kim Gallagher: "The second time we left the airport my son said flat out, I don't want a puppy. I can't do this again. It was horrible. I felt horrendous sending the puppy back."
Soutullo told me she had done nothing wrong in either sale.
Judge Beth Bloom: "All right on the 9:00 calendar for a surrender Julie Soutullo."
But now, Soutullo has admitted guilt in connection with other sales and was in court to begin 20 days of house arrest for violating the pet lemon law, and there's more, three years of probation and no more puppy sales during that time.
Nicole Johnson: "She's agreed to a three year cease and desist order from the puppy business."
It is very specific and says in a nutshell she can't have anything to do with puppies period. She can't even puppy sit. Soutullo didn't seem to realize she was going to be taken into custody.
Judge Beth Bloom: "Yes, but you are going to be taken into custody. Do you have any questions?"
After learning she would be going to jail, Soutullo began ripping off her jewelry. She was taken away to be processed before being released for her house arrest sentence.
Mark Fagen: "Consumers don't have to worry about her for the next three years."
Although the state says Soutullo is now out of the business, what about the plan for her husband to run the business?
Mark Fagen: "This is a business that's got a red flag on it now, and this is a business that we will follow up on. I mean, you've got a history here."
Carmel Cafiero: "And this is by no means an end to Soutullo's legal problems. She is also facing 23 felony charges that range from grand theft to failure to pay state sales tax, all in connection with her puppy sales."
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