Pet store owner uses Facebook to shame tortoise thieves

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on September 12, 2012 at 7:07 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 13 at 9:02 AM

Out of all the critters inside Critters and Company Pet Center on Whidbey Island, the tiny tortoises are the talk of the town.

Store manager Debbie Wilkie showed us the surveillance footage of a couple inside the store. The man distracts the staff as the woman grabs three sulcata tortoises from their cage.

“The poor little tortoises go right into her purse and then she walks out the door,” Wilkie said.

“They stole the damn tortoises,” said store owner James Dunn. “I'm not going to forget they did it. They're not allowed in my store.”

The tortoises were worth about $100 a piece. It amounts to shoplifting, which is a misdemeanor.

Dunn recognized the couple as regular customers. He called the police and didn't stop there. He started a shame campaign, posting the video and their names on Facebook and Youtube.

Customers come into the store to talk about  it.

“I recognized the name,” said one man.

“Nicely done, nicely done,” said a woman.

Now it's hard to find someone in the small town of Clinton who doesn't know about it.

Police have heard from plenty of outraged callers, but they've done what they can.

“We mailed them a summons to appear in court,” said Island County Sheriff Mark Brown.

Brown admits the Facebook campaign can act as a deterrent, as long as it doesn't interfere with the case.

“I just want them to get a fair trial so we can convict them,” he said.

The couple, Tori Johnson and Scott Nielsen, have been charged with third degree theft and are scheduled to appear in court on September 19th. KING 5 tried to reach the couple for comment, but was unsuccessful.
 
“Maybe one day I'll get a little box right there in front of the door where these people brought back the tortoises, and that would be okay,” said Dunn.

But no matter what the couple decides to do, Dunn says he's not willing to forgive or forget.

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