'Most Wanted' puppy mill operator sought in death of toddler

'Most Wanted' puppy mill operator sought in death of toddler

'Most Wanted' puppy mill operator sought in death of toddler

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by SUSAN WYATT / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 10:08 AM

The U.S. Marshals Service and The Humane Society of the United States have alerted the animal welfare community of a fugitive on the USMS’ 15 Most Wanted List and are offering rewards for her capture.

The fugitive, Janet Barreto, is allegedly linked to multiple puppy mill operations and the homicide death of a toddler.

The Marshals Service says from 2005 to 2006, Barreto and her husband, Ramon Barreto, are suspected of traveling to Guatemala on multiple occasions to purchase children from a local adoption agency. Upon returning to the United States, the children were allegedly physically abused, malnourished and forced to sleep in deplorable conditions. The children were purportedly often punished with beatings and on various occasions duct-taped to their beds, punched in the stomach and forced to endure having their heads submerged under water. In 2008, the abuse led to the death of one of their adopted children, a 2-year-old girl.

See the wanted poster

Barreto was originally arrested in May 2008 and released in December that same year on bond. In March 2009, she was re-arrested for tampering with a witness and released on bond again. Two months later in May 2009, she failed to appear for her trial on the child endangerment, child abuse and manslaughter charges.

When the Barretos were arrested, investigators also found that the couple was running a puppy mill and found hundreds of sick and injured animals crammed into cages filled with feces.

The couple moved from their Huntington Park, Calif. rental in June 2012 after their new puppy mill became a neighborhood nuisance, investigators say. The Barretos told associates that they were moving to Texas, but investigators say they believe the couple could be anywhere. They may be selling small dogs such as Yorkies, Maltese and Poodles through online ads and at flea markets.

In June, the US Marshals added Janet Barreto to their 15 most wanted list.

"Adopting children and bringing them to the United States only to abuse and neglect them is a horrific crime," said William D. Snelson, U.S. Marshals Service Assistant Director for Investigative Operations. "Adding Barreto to our 15 Most Wanted list allows the USMS to dedicate every available investigative resource to immediately locate and apprehend her, so she may face justice and answer for her crimes.”

Melanie Kahn, senior director of the puppy mills campaign for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “Too often, the boundaries are wafer thin between cruelty to animals and cruelty to the most vulnerable members of our society, young children. We hope that the dedicated animal welfare community will be the missing link in finding these fugitives.”

Janet speaks English and Spanish, while Ramon speaks only Spanish. Janet has used several aliases including Victoria and Vicky, while Ramon has used Ramiro, Juan and Christian. Janet is a diabetic who needs insulin and is known to visit area clinics for insulin. She reportedly wears only black clothing and has naturally thin black hair, but is known to wear blonde and red wigs.

If you have any information, you are asked to contact the U.S. Marshals Service:
 

  • U.S. Marshals Service Communications Center at 1 (800) 336-0102 or
  • Deputy U.S. Marshal Gale Manning at (662) 816-3013 (English speakers) or
  • Deputy U.S. Marshal David Dominguez at (213) 798-6446 (Spanish speakers) or  Email: usms.wanted@usdoj.gov

Tipsters who may have information about the Barretos’ pet sales are urged to call 1-877-MILL-TIP.

Any information provided will be considered confidential, and there is a cash award of up to $25,000 for information leading to an arrest.  The Humane Society of the United States offers a puppy mill tip line reward of up to $5,000 for successful prosecutions related to puppy mill cruelty.

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