Suspect demanding ransom for lost dogs may be using Craigslist

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Valley dog owners who are putting up posters and using the Internet to locate their lost pets are getting calls back from someone demanding a ransom.


Phoenix police now believe the suspect may be using Craigslist to prey on his victims. 


"It's horrific what he's doing to us. It's heart-wrenching enough that we're out there, we're searching for our dog, we desperately want our dogs back," said dog owner Amy Gonzales.


She is now the third dog owner to contact police about a ransom-demanding stranger claiming to have her lost animal.


Her 1-year-old Chihuahua, Red Dog, escaped through a hole in their fenced in backyard several weeks ago. She posted fliers on her Buckeye neighborhood mailboxes and even online through Craigslist, offering a reward for his safe return. 


On Monday, she received a phone call.


"He says to me, 'Are you the one that's missing your dog?' And I was like, 'Yes!' " she recalled.


He then told her he wanted $500.


The next day, 3TV spoke with Ashley Ellis. Ellis is a Phoenix resident who received a call from the same number and got the same demands. It turns out, the suspect never had Ellis' dogs. 


Now police believe the suspect is at it again, saying he's also a suspect in a case involving a Chihuahua named Mocos. The owner's Craigslist ad also offered a reward, and last week the owner received a phone call demanding money in exchange for Mocos.


"Once that you admit you have someone's property, you can't hold that property for ransom. That becomes extortion," said Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes. 


Gonzales is sickened by the ordeal and just wants her precious dog back, wherever he might be, so he can take care of her husband who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.


"We're all going through this. It's hard enough, but yet it's like he's kicking us while we're already down," she said. 


Anyone with information on the suspects should contact Phoenix police at 602-262-6141 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.