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Police: Florida man arrested while trying to collect ransom for missing dog

Posted at 10:30 PM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-28 22:30:37-05

VOLUSIA COUNTY, FL (WESH/CNN) - A Florida man is accused of finding a missing puppy and then holding it for ransom.

Police even went to the man's house looking for the dog.

"He was trying to, like, blackmail me for my own dog," said Victoria Sochan, the owner of the puppy named Zeus.

Sochan was devastated when Zeus dug his way out of their Holly Hill yard Thursday and disappeared.

She felt shocked and angry when she found out 31-year-old Thomas Flemming had her dog and was allegedly holding him hostage for $150.

"He wanted my money for my dog. He wanted to make a profit off my family's hurting. I mean, how do you? I would never do that to somebody," Sochan said.

Sochan and her boyfriend posted pictures of their missing pet to Facebook and someone messaged her that the suspect had a picture of her dog on his page, boasting a new member of the family.

Sochan tracked Flemming to a nearby home where he allegedly told her he adopted the dog, then, later said an aunt gave it to him.

"They knew it was my dog right away and they come up with a million different stories," she explained.

Police said they were almost certain from the beginning that the suspect wasn't telling the truth about how he got the dog. But then a witness came forward.

She said she saw the suspect pick the dog up from the street. They had a conversation and he told her he was going to try and find the rightful owner.

"The cops went to his home twice. He could have just given them the dog. He hid the dog the second time the cops went and said the dog had been picked up," Sochan recalled.

Then came the demands for cash. With police waiting in the wings, Flemming walked to church parking lot with the dog in tow, allegedly expecting money and getting handcuffed instead.

"We tried to be nice. We gave him every opportunity to give the dog back. Like, what would possess somebody to do that," Sochan asked.

The suspect told police his wife bought the dog from a friend but could not produce a receipt.

Zeus, of course, is back with Sochan and, from all accounts, doing great.

Copyright 2018 WESH via CNN. All rights reserved.