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Woman gets jail for trying to extort money for lost dog

June 16, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A Hagerstown woman was sentenced this week in Washington County District Court to 10 days in jail for attempting to extort money from the owners of a lost dog.

Judge Mark D. Thomas Tuesday sentenced Elena Vatamaniuc, 57, of 257 Belview Ave., to 18 months in jail, suspended all but 10 days and fined her $500, according to court records.

Vatamaniuc had pleaded guilty to extortion of less than $500 in exchange for dismissal of a theft charge, the court records said.

The dog, a 1-year-old Weimaraner named Harleigh Belle, escaped from owners Leonardo Schianodicola and Carla Carter on Aug. 15, 2010, according to the application for statement of charges filed by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

They reported the dog lost to the county humane society and posted fliers in the area of their Oak Ridge Drive home, the charging documents said.

On Aug. 17, they received a call from a woman who said she had the dog and asked if there was a reward for its return, the documents said.

Schianodicola said he could offer about $50, but the caller said she wanted $200, and they could get the dog back when they had the money, the documents said.

The couple contacted police. A deputy called the woman’s number and said he was coming over to get the dog, the documents said. When he and another deputy arrived, Vatamaniuc told them she found the dog on Aug. 13, two days before the owners said it went missing, the documents said.

Vatamaniuc told the deputies that the dog had run into the road and, when she stopped and got out of her car to make sure it was safe, it jumped into her vehicle, the documents said.

When she saw the lost dog flier, Vatamaniuc said she called the couple and told them she wanted the $200 for damage the dog caused while in her care, the documents said.

The deputy checked the woman’s garage and wrote, “There did not appear to be $200.00 worth of damage to Vatamaniuc’s property,” the  documents said.

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