By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
A man who was wanted in Wilmington, Del. for operating an elaborate dog training scam in 2010 is on the run from a local law enforcement agency for operating the same scheme in Edgecombe County.
James Randal Whitten, 46, whose last known address is 4147 N.C. Highway 97 East, allegedly operated a dog training business at his home that scammed money from at least three owners. Two of the owners said they found their dogs in horrible condition and untrained while the third owner's three pit bulls are still missing. All the victims lived outside of Edgecombe County including one in another state.
Whitney Walker and her fiance', Sterling Jones of Fort Jackson, S.C., uncovered the scam when Whitten, who was using the alias, Joey Freeman, did not follow up with the agreement of him training three pit bulls. After not hearing from the suspect and calling his telephone, they found that it was disconnected. The couple drove back to the Tarboro address on June 15 to investigate the situation. When they arrived, Whitten and their dogs were gone.
Obviously devastated, they notified the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Department. The couple also stayed in Tarboro that weekend in an attempt to find their dogs. They also began posting messages on Facebook, Craiglist and other Internet sites. It wasn't long after before another couple, who was also a victim of the scam, saw the posts. Chrissi Frye and Ben Ramsey of Wilmington contacted Walker and Jones and shared their story.
Just like the South Carolina couple, the Wilmington couple found the scam business, "k-9 paws," through its website. On the website, the area code for the telephone number is in the Raleigh area and there is no physical address listed.
The Wilmington couple said they were in the market for the training of their pitt bull when they found "k-9 paws." Ramsey said he spoke to the suspect for about one week before he decided to use his service. On May 25, the couple said they took their dog to the suspect for training. "At first he was sending videos and pictures as the agreement stated," Ramsey said. "We were in constant contact with him until June 10. When we called on June 14 the phone was turned off."
The couple drove to the alleged business Saturday and found their dog in a deplorable situation.
"He was chained up to a metal pole and had dug a hole for shelter," Ramsey said. "The chain discolored his white coat that's under his neck. He had lost 15 pounds. When he saw us he stood up and he wobbled because he was so weak. I immediately burst into tears. We were devastated."
They were also angered. On their way back home, Ramsey began searching for the proprietor. There, he found Walker and Jones' story and their telephone numbers. He immediately contacted them and shared his story with them.
Once they arrived home, they carried their pit bull to an emergency veterinarian clinic.
"Someone this cruel and has this much disregard for life has been not been a person that is real to me," Walker said. "I looked in the eyes of a truly cruel and heartless person who obviously does not have regards for life but for his own."
Doug Clifton, of Raleigh is also a victim. He said he found "k-9 paws" through Craiglist. He paid for service to train a Labrador retriever and a mini poodle and he was not satisfied with the service.
Clifton said he took the suspect to small claim court. He said the landlord of the property that the dogs were trained on attended the session instead of the suspect.
"They said they didn't know this guy and they didn't have anything to do with the dogs," Clifton said. "I lost that case."
Warrants have been drawn up against Whitten for two counts of obtaining property by false pretense and two counts of larceny of a dog. As well as using the alias, Joey Freeman, he also have used the name Jimmy Whitten.
Whitten’s sister, Sandra Lee Bryan, 45, was charged with obstructing justice after she gave false information to the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Department.
If anyone recognizes Whittenor has information as to his whereabouts, contact the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office at (252) 641-7911.