SOCIAL media recommendations can be life-saving – but for one over-trusting expat a post led her into the hands of an alleged serial conman.
The recommendation for a pet transport company on Facebook saw Maria Vila lose €300 to a firm she claims is a ‘scam’ and operating ‘without appropriate licences’.
The 43-year-old had contacted Malaga-based Pet Taxi Transport to arrange the travel of her cat from London to her home in Spain in January.
Despite further checks she paid the company in full to bring her kitten, a Cornish Rex called Gatsby to her residence in Gandia, Valencia.
It was only when owner Jeremy Griffiths refused requests to provide basic company information that Vila became suspicious.
“I then put his name into Google to find his company website, and I was absolutely speechless,” Maria told the Olive Press.
“Articles from the Olive Press came up over a number of years about dogs dying in transit and other problems.
“I then found Jeremy insisting one poor client’s dog had died because it was ‘overweight and fat’.”
She continued: “Most pet transporters I’ve known are amazing and will bend over backwards for a beloved pet, but this man is an utter crook.”
She immediately cancelled the order and asked for a refund for the January 25 trip.
However, when no refund was made, she was forced to shell out an extra €250 for a separate transport company to deliver her kitten.
She has now made a denuncia to the Guardia Civil and reported Griffiths to Malaga Trading Standards (OMIC).
But without any registration details it will be difficult to see results.
“I’m determined to stop this man,” insisted Vila. “He is so dodgy, using his mother’s address and an English mobile number.”
When contacted by the Olive Press, Griffiths was unrepentant and insisted his business was registered in the UK – however Companies House has no record of the company ever existing.
A spokesperson for the UK’s Defra Transport Compliance Team confirmed in emails that there is ‘no transporter authorisation for Mr Griffiths’.
Griffiths also claimed he only works as a ‘booking agent’ and palms actual deliveries off to other companies – which he refused to name – despite Maria insisting Griffiths agreed to transport her cat himself.
Griffiths added Maria had ‘violated clause 11’ of the company’s contract as she cancelled under 24 hours in advance and was therefore ‘not entitled’ to a refund.
However clause 11 of the contract, seen by the Olive Press, makes no mention of cancellations and instead details what will happen in the event no person is present to receive a pet.
He said the money would be used to help bring over a pet ‘for charity’ in the future.
It comes after Dianne Lunt, from Marbella, said her pet pug suffered a heart-attack while in transit under Griffiths from Spain in 2013.
Another expat, Alec Strathern, also denounced Pet Taxi Transport after claiming his three dogs were transported in a van without ‘air conditioning’ and with holes in the floor.