GALLIPOLIS — A Gallia County woman pleaded guilty to a criminal simulation charge Thursday in the Gallipolis Municpal Court involving allegations of horse theft.
Angel Vance, 33, of Cheshire, is alleged to have falsely depicted the state of her property as an animal rescue and falsely utilized photos from another property in communications on social media to convince victims to give up their horses.
Vance may face up to a max of six months in jail for the crime and is anticipated to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Gallipolis City Solicitor Adam Salisbury said Jeannie Oldaker, of Clarksburg, W.Va., stepped forward with concerns that Vance had shown her photos of a property in North Carolina depicting a well-kept barn and stable property on Facebook and said those photos represented her property in northern Gallia County on Turkey Run Road. After posting to social media stating she needed help finding a new home for two thoroughbred horses, Vance reached out to Oldaker in fall 2014. Vance showed her the photos of the false property and said she was an animal rescue worker.
After being convinced Vance could care for the horses, Oldaker said Vance could come and collect them. Vance reportedly collected the animals in West Virginia in November of last year.
“Oldaker sent a message because she was concerned that (Vance) wasn’t being 100 percent truthful,” Salisbury said.
Oldaker had reached out for updates on the animals with Vance.
“She was getting pictures that did not appear to be her horses,” Salisbury said. “Communication (between Vance and Oldaker) was drying up and becoming less frequent. Finally, Vance said she had taken the horses to Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue. They are a real horse rescue facility south of Huntington, W.Va. Oldaker called down there and they said they didn’t know Angel Vance and didn’t have the horses. That’s when things really went south.”
Oldaker reportedly logged into social media and message boards to find out more about Vance. Vance eventually told Oldaker the horses died in February 2015.
According to Salisbury, the horses that died were registered with a Kentucky horse organization called the Jockey Club of Lexington.
According to evidence Salisbury would have presented had there been a trial, there were at least three other victims of similar circumstance where Vance had been approaching individuals looking for homes for horses they could not care for. Vance showed them similar photos and stories about her misrepresented rescue. Overall, Vance had established 13 online personalities in her horse collecting activities.
“We can prove beyond a reasonable doubt there is a pattern,” Salisbury said.
Part of the evidence displayed a variety of photos from 2014 showing the bones of decaying horses corpses spread across the residence taken by neighbors of the Vance property. How those animals died and the true ownership of those animals is in question. When Gallia County sheriff’s deputies arrived to investigate, the bones in the photos were reportedly gone, although officers discovered a dead donkey on the property. Lab evidence revealed the animal was extremely malnourished before its death, according to case information.
According to the Ohio Revised Code section 2913.32(A),”No person, with purpose to defraud, or knowing that the person is facilitating a fraud, shall do any of the following … (Section 2 under A) Practice deception in making, retouching, editing, or reproducing any photograph, movie film, video tape, phonograph or recording tape.” Oldaker gave up her animals under the false pretense they were being cared for. This is considered criminal simulation.
As part of a plea agreement, Vance pleaded guilty to the criminal simulation charge as well as roughly $1,000 in restitution to the principal victim. Criminal simulation is considered a first-degree misdemeanor.
“There is obviously something very wrong that had happened at that property,” Salisbury said. “We only charge when we feel we have evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt when a crime is committed.”
Vance has a previous insurance fraud conviction in Jackson County and is reportedly on probation for it. Salisbury has informed law enforcement in West Virginia, as well as officials in Jackson County, of Vance’s guilty plea.
Vance is scheduled to be officially sentenced in Gallipolis Municipal Court at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.