Wednesday, February 4, 2009
ELYRIA — A 40-year-old Amherst man who had a kennel and advertised as a dog trainer named "The Dog Guy Don" was sentenced to 12 months in the Lorain County Jail yesterday for bilking more than $36,000 out of a nonprofit group in Utah who provided care for dogs rescued after Hurricane Katrina.
Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge James Miraldi ordered Donald Chambers to pay a $1,000 fine and $62,124 in restitution to the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.
Prosecutors say Chambers was given $36,720 and 28 dogs from the Best Friends Animal Society. He was supposed to use the money to care for the dogs until they were adopted. Only three of the dogs were placed in homes and most of the dogs have died.
"He took money to train dogs, then brought them to the pound to be killed," Prosecutor Peter Gauthier said.
"Many times we have more compassion for animals than our fellow man and in some cases (the defendant) will be looked at differently because his crime was against animals," defense attorney Bill Willis said. "Some people want him to get a harder sentence."
Chambers told the judge he just had bad business skills. "I try to do right and support a family, but I made some bad business decisions." Chambers has since closed his dog business and worked as a tow truck driver.
Before imposing his sentence, Miraldi told Chambers, "Your involvement in this process goes way beyond bad business. You went through the deceitful process of taking money and letting these dogs die. I think you have some sociopathic tendencies to behave the way you did."
Three representatives from the Best Friends Animal Society flew in from Utah for the sentencing. They were given a chance to speak before Miraldi imposed the sentence.
"These were innocent dogs caught in the middle of a person's greed right after they had survived a horrific tragedy," said Tammy Rolfe, of the Best Friends Animal Society. "These dogs lost their lives because of his greed. Mr. Chambers allowed dogs to be killed and thrown away like trash."
Added Best Friends representative Mike Harmon, "At any point he could have contacted us and said he was over his limits and we would have taken the dogs back."
Several members of the Chambers family were in court to show their support for him. They all walked out in tears when the deputy handcuffed Chambers and took him away to begin serving his sentence. No one in the Chambers family wanted to comment about the case.
Donald D. Chambers, 40, of Amherst, was sentenced this morning to a year in prison, fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $62,124 in restitution to the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.
Chambers had told the nonprofit group caring for dogs rescued after Hurricane Katrina that he would take some of them and find them homes.
He received 28 dogs from the Best Friends Animal Society and $36,720 to care for them until they were adopted.
Chambers didn't spend the money on the dogs, and just three of them landed in homes. Most are dead.
Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi sentenced Chambers today for fraud. He pleaded guilty Oct. 24.
"This is about a person who took advantage of a dire situation during Katrina and used money and the animals for his own profit," a Best Friends spokesman said.
Spokesman John Polis said of the 28 dogs given to Chambers, just three were placed in homes. Ten were euthanized at the Lorain County Kennel. One died in a dog fight. One died of untreated heartworms. Three died and were tossed into a trash bin. Six are unaccounted for. Best Friends took back three of them.
Best Friends spent $27,000 on travel and attorneys fees to see that Chambers is punished, Polis said. The restitution order includes that expense.
The relationship between Chambers and Best Friends began when he presented himself as Don the Dog Guy, who had a kennel and training facility in Lorain County. He traveled to Best Friend's sanctuary and spent time with dog trainers there.
"He was very personable, charming and seemed to understand dogs and have training skills," Polis said.
"He was paid $1,000 for each dog he took for training and placement. He claimed to have placed the dogs and sent convincing photos and wrote stories about the dogs for our Web site," Polis said. "Don actually was quite popular with the trainers here and had somewhat of a following on our Web site."
Once the fraud was detected, Best Friends made many visits to Ohio to find out the dogs' fate and meet with police, prosecutors and shelter officials.
When Chambers was given the dogs; "We simply needed to try and place as many dogs from Katrina as possible," Polis said. "The last thing we thought was that someone would try to con us with such an elaborate scheme."
Interesting comments from people who say they know Don...
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