2012-03-07 / Features

Puppy Pilferer Pinched

By LIZ GOFF

A pilfered puppy is resting comfortably this week after being returned to the Middle Village pet shop he calls home – and the people who love him the most.

A heartless Maspeth woman stole the miniature teacup pinscher from the Pet Palace on February 17, by stuffing the pup into a suitcase on wheels and whisking him away, store owner Suzanne Caracci said.

Caracci said Jolanta El-Shorbagi, 57, walked into the Pet Palace and engaged a worker in conversation. Moments later, El-Shorbagi spotted the puppy, which had a price tag of $1,000.

El-Shorbagi was captured on a store surveillance video walking over to the pup, Caracci said. “She dropped the bag and when she bent to pick it up, she grabbed the puppy, stashed him in the bag and walked out of the store.”

Moments later, a devastated worker noticed the puppy was missing. “We panicked and called the cops,” she said.

The puppy was missing until February 21, when store employee Rob Stimmel, 20, spotted El-Shorbagi in the front yard of her Maspeth home.

“We received a tip that she lived in the neighborhood, so everyone was looking for her,” Caracci told the Gazette. “Our employee just happened to see her as he was driving to service a fish tank for one of our customers.”

Stimmel confronted El-Shorbagi, who denied stealing the puppy. “She told him she wanted to see the video that shows her putting the puppy in her bag.” Caracci said Stimmel never said anything to El-Shorbagi about her putting the puppy in the bag. “She accused herself.”

Caracci called police who recovered the puppy and charged El-Shorbagi with grand larceny and possession of stolen property.

“We’re just happy she was arrested and justice was served,” Caracci said. “We were all devastated and concerned for the welfare of the puppy.”

Caracci said several people have expressed interest in purchasing the pup, but she and her husband are screening prospective parents very carefully.

“We considered adopting him ourselves,” Caracci said. “But we have four children and several pets, so we decided to find him a good home.”

Caracci said Pet Palace, at 61-19 Fresh Pond Road in Middle Village, doesn’t just sell pets – the store also fosters rescue animals in need of a home. “Everyone, our workers and volunteers, form a bond with our pets. Everyone was worried, frustrated and angry that this happened to one of our pets.”

El Shorbagi was released without bail at her arraignment at Queens Criminal Court. She could face up to seven years in prison, if convicted.

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