Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 15, 2013

'Missing dog' story turns out to be hoax

JACKSONVILLE, Texas —

What started out as a "feel-good" story about a homeless man who lost, then recovered, his service dog has turned out to be a hoax.

Charles Lee Boothe, 54, is described by Jacksonville police as a "drifter-grifter" with multiple violence-related convictions in seven states.

Authorities believe he lied to a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter, claiming he had lost what he claimed was a “service animal.” By getting the reporter to write about the alleged incident, Boothe was hoping to receive resources and money from sympathetic area residents, police believe.

But something was very wrong with Boothe late last week. He showed up at the offices of the newspaper, drunk and muttering conspiracy theories along with angry expletives

"If he hadn't come back into our offices in the throes of a meltdown, we might not have ever known that something was wrong, very wrong, with his version of events," Editor Amy Brocato Pearson said. "I feel bad for all the people who tried to help him."

After the staff tried to talk to Boothe several times, Pearson determined that police should be called.

After Boothe was arrested on a charge of public intoxication, officers searched his belongings and found a stolen birth certificate and also determined paperwork Boothe showed the reporter when claiming his black-mouth cur Fuzzy as a service dog was legitimate, but actually belonged to someone else.

Police have taken Fuzzy to the city pound, where authorities will determine to whom he will be released.

Jacksonville Police Sgt. Jason Price said Boothe probably would remain in jail awhile.

The "missing dog" scam is one Boothe had tried at least once before. According to information recovered by Jacksonville Police, Boothe circulated "lost dog" flyers in Palestine, Texas, as well as penning a letter to the editor of the Palestine Herald Press.

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Details for this story were provided by the Jacksonville (Texas) Daily Progress.

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