Md. man allegedly held woman's poodle for ransom
A 21-year-old Silver Spring man was in jail Wednesday morning charged with poodle extortion.
Technically it's a case of theft. But if Montgomery County police are correct, Najie S. Walker tried to force the owner of a lost dog named Scrappy to fork over hundreds of dollars for its return.
Officers set up a sting, catching the suspect Sunday in a Friendly's restaurant men's room, according to charging documents.
It's unclear if Walker has obtained a lawyer yet. His side of the story remains unclear.
According to police, things began early Sunday along Bronzegate Place in Silver Spring. As Scrappy's owner would later tell police, her two dogs -- Scrappy and Scooby -- jumped her fence and ran away, according to police accounts. The owner later received a call from someone saying he had both dogs, wanted reward money, and she should come to a T.G.I. Friday's on Tech Road to get them.
The dogs' owner, Gloria Chicas, went to the restaurant but couldn't find the man or her dogs, according to charging documents.
She called the police. An arriving officer, pretending to be the owner's nephew, used the owner's cell phone to call the suspect, who identified himself as “Matt.” The dog-finder said he no longer had the dogs -- that they'd run away and he'd gone to church.
At this point, a nearby police officer reported finding a dead dog on Columbia Pike, only blocks from the owner's home. Chicas identified the dog as Scooby. From the charging documents, it wasn't clear if Scooby was hit by a car or how he died.
Later, “Matt” called the dog's owner again, “this time claiming only to have one dog and requiring $200 cash to turn the dog over,” police wrote in charging documents. The officer called Matt -- again using the nephew ruse -- and learned the fee had jumped to $300.
The officer negotiated it down to $250, and Matt told him to meet him at Friday's, then changed that to McDonald's, on Cherry Hill Road, and said he'd be wearing jeans and a black leather jacket, according to charging documents.
As officers converged, police said, Matt saw at least one of them and slipped out a back door of the McDonald's and walked over to Friendly's. They found him in a bathroom stall, and said he had put the leather jacket in a bathroom trash can. Scrappy, a brown poodle valued at $500, was found outside in a car.
Three of the final paragraphs in the charging documents -- written by officer M. Rodriguez -- bear repeating almost entirely:
The writer asked Walker what would have happened if [dog owner] Chicas arrived and refused to pay any money for Scrappy the dog, to which Walker replied, 'She would have got her dog back. Honest to God, and I went to church today.' The writer then asked Walker how he could explain changing the meeting location, distancing himself from the vehicle where Scrappy the dog was located, leaving the McDonald's upon approach by police, hiding in the bathroom stall, and placing his black leather jacket in the trash can, if Walker fully intended on returning Scrappy the dog without receiving any money. Walker advised that he never saw the police and that he needed to use the restroom, but the one in McDonald's was occupied.
Walker advised that his sister had located Scrappy, and she wanted a reward for returning him. Walker stated, 'My family flatlined. We got no money.' ...
When the writer asked Walker why he did not return Scrappy the dog to the address on the registration tag, Walker advised that he was unable to read the address. The writer asked how he was able to read the phone number located on the same tag and Walker stated that he needed glasses. The writer observed the address and believed it to be just as legible as the phone number which Walker claimed to be able to read.
February 17, 2010; 8:32 AM ET
Categories: Dan Morse , Montgomery
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