MIAMI (WHDH) – A South Florida wildlife sanctuary owner has been arrested after he told police that several of his exotic animals had been stolen.
Owner Josue Santiago claimed that dozens of exotic animals including lemurs, monkeys and birds were reportedly stolen Saturday night from the We Care Wildlife Sanctuary, but investigators now believe Santiago made a false report and lied to police.
“It was all planned. It was all a farce. It was all a lie,” said Diane, who did not want to give her last name.
Diane said the missing animals are with her in South Carolina, explaining on Facebook that Santiago wanted to hide the animals.
She said in part, “I was contacted by Jose and Armando on Friday, and they said they needed a safe place for their animals. I told them to contact their attorney and bring them here and let them know where everyone was and that they were safe and to work out their issues. Legally!!”
Diane told 7News that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was investigating this case.
“At the time, they were telling me that the FWC was being unreasonable, the animals were well taken care of, when that wasn’t really the case,” she said.
The supposed burglary was exposed by a volunteer at the sanctuary on Sunday.
Volunteer Cindy Robert spoke with 7News and pleaded with the public to return the animals.
She was told the animals were stolen, and that it was likely the result of a fake Craigslist post that stated the sanctuary was going out of business. The post also said the animals were free for the taking.
When people showed up to pick out the animals, the sanctuary’s staff called police to send them away.
“I believe the Craigslist ad was all a farce,” Diane said. “I believe they planned on staging this up to then.”
Diane said she is working with authorities, and the lemurs, marmosets and other animals will remain in her care.
Six exotic birds were mysteriously returned and left outside the property Tuesday morning, but more than a dozen tortoises and birds remain missing.
If you know where these animals are, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $1,000 reward.
(Copyright (c) 2018 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)