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Vet David Smith, from Finglesham, told to pay back £60,000 after horse scam

A vet who was jailed for his part in a “despicable” scam involving drugging sick and potentially dangerous horses and selling them to unsuspecting buyers has been ordered to hand over almost £60,000.

David Smith, who was said to have assets of £491,000, continued after a confiscation hearing to claim he was innocent and branded the order to pay the amount as “robbery”.

Despite losing an appeal against his fraud conspiracy conviction, the Deal vet maintained: “As far as this is concerned it is a total miscarriage of justice. I am innocent.”

Deal vet David Smith
Deal vet David Smith

Smith, 66, of Lower Farm, The Street, Finglesham, and equestrian centre partners Charlotte Johnson, of Wagtail Place, Hayle Park, Maidstone, and Aniela Jurecka, of Prospect Place, Collier Street, Tonbridge, were each jailed for two-and-a-half years in July 2016 after they were convicted of the charge.

They lost their appeals against conviction but Johnson won a six month cut in her sentence. They have since been released.

Maidstone Crown Court heard on Thursday that the total benefit from the criminality was £59,050.

Prosecutor Alex Rooke said Jurecka also benefited from other criminal conduct to the tune of £46,503, making a total of £105,553 in her case.

Her realisable assets totalled just £104.96. She was given seven days to pay that amount or face a further seven days in jail.

Aniela Jurecka (left) and Charlotte Johnson
Aniela Jurecka (left) and Charlotte Johnson

Johnson’s benefit from her criminal conduct totalled £85,795, but her realisable assets were “effectively nil”. She was, therefore, ordered to pay a nominal £1.

Because she was in hospital and unable to attend the hearing, she was given 28 days to pay or be jailed for one day in default.

A jury heard at the trial that horses, priced from £1,950 to £5,700, were drugged at South East Horses, based at Great Thorn Farm in Marden and at hired land at Duckhurst Farm in Staplehurst, to cover up lameness and other problems.

It was estimated that hundreds of horses were sold, bringing in potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds for Johnson and Jurecka, both aged 30.

In a conflict of interest, they used their own vet, Smith, who also had a practice in Hawkinge, to carry out deliberately “cursory and inadequate” examinations of the horses before they were sold.

Charlotte Johnson. Picture: Kent Police.
Charlotte Johnson. Picture: Kent Police.

Mr Rooke said there was the "vexed question of compensation which needed to be paid out of the confiscation orders.

"I ask that it be expressed as compensation to be paid from the confiscation orders recovered and distributed pro rata among those who have not been hitherto compensated," he added.

Smith insisted after the hearing: “I did not conspire with these women. I did not defraud anybody. I have practiced for over 40 years as a vet. I am known by thousands of people.

“Thousands of people know I am innocent. They have started petitions on my behalf. They are all very up in arms about this.

“So far, it has cost me, with this order, the best part of half a million pounds. I have vetted over 2,000 horses and have had only eight complaints.”

Aniela Jurecka. Picture: Kent Police.
Aniela Jurecka. Picture: Kent Police.

Smith said he had sold his Lakeview Veterinary Centre in Deal and had to accept £100,000 below the asking price because of adverse publicity. He still has his Hawkinge practice.

“I would like to retire. I have been in prison for 11 months.

He has to appear before a disciplinary committee at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons over the case to determine whether he should be struck off.

He had previously been struck off for serious misconduct in illegal tail docking, and was later reinstated,

“I am very aggrieved by it all,” he continued. “I have put it to the CCRC (Criminal Case Review Commission). You don’t put people like me in prison. I quite enjoyed prison actually.

"I am very aggrieved by it all" - David Smith

“I still have people who want me to vet horses. Don’t you think if people thought I had done anything wrong they wouldn’t come near me?

“This entire trial was corrupt, in my view. I don’t see why I should suffer for something I haven’t done. I have got to pay this money, which is robbery in my view.”

Judge Martin Joy told Smith when passing sentence: “I had the opportunity of seeing you in the witness box over some days and you seemed to exhibit an arrogance and contemptuous attitude to clients, their concerns and feelings.

“The evidence disclosed your dishonesty about the provision of drugs for horses over many years. You presented in the witness box as a cynic willing to participate in a long and dishonest scam.”

Maidstone Crown Court
Maidstone Crown Court

The judge concluded Smith played a crucial part in the conspiracy.

“Your involvement was to tell lies both orally and in writing, lies to get around a conflict of interest. False certification by you for horses was part of the conspiracy.

“You supplied drugs for horses you knew would be sold fraudulently. You made it possible for horses to be sold that should not have been.

“If the certificates were challenged they were further falsified by you to cover up the dishonesty. It created danger to customers. You were trusted as a professional man.

“You had very little regard for clients’ concerns. Your concern was for the sale to go ahead.”

Judge Joy added there was another side to Smith, who had been hard working, generous and carried out charitable work.

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