A GANG who were caught fraudently selling puppies will be sentenced later this ear for their roles in the sick scheme. 

They were found to have sold hundreds of sick puppies illegally to unsuspecting buyers in Billericay, Grays and Thurrock across several year. 

One of the gang, Stacey Hayward, 41, had her licence to sell puppies revoked by Basildon Council in 2018 after complaints about the dogs falling ill not long after sale. 

Her licence to breed dogs also expired in 2018. 

But investigators found she had continued to sell and breed dogs, with adverts regularly posted online and old licence documents presented to buyers.


The RSPCA soon linked Hayward and Steven Foster, 42, both of Colliford Road, West Thurrock, to another address in Weymouth Drive, Chafford Hundred, where Kelly Bennet, 43, and Ricky Bennett, 41, lived.

The duo were also found to be breeding and selling puppies without a licence, despite a warning from council bosses they needed one.

The illegal selling and breeding of puppies continued throughout a number of Covid lockdowns and was eventually shut down in May 2021.

It is estimated the gang made a combined £850,000 through their operation. Raids at both properties were carried out where puppies were found, along with paperwork linking the gang to the fraudulent sale of dogs.

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Dead puppies were found in freezers at both properties, while there was also paperwork and mobile phone evidence recovered.

All four people were eventually charged by police and appeared before Basildon Crown Court.

Foster and Ricky Bennett admitted acquiring criminal property while Hayward and Kelly Bennett admitted fraud.

Kelly Bennett also indicated guilty pleas to two offences under the Animal Welfare Act while Ricky Bennett indicated a guilty plea to one animal welfare offence.

What the RSPCA investigation found

Basildon Crown Court was told about the shocking state the puppies found at the gangs’ homes were in when they were rescued.

Nine puppies were found living in a shed at the rear of the garden at Colliford Road and were all seized and taken into care.

One tested positive for parvovirus and died, but the others – who were suffering from Giardia and other health problems - made full recoveries and were rehomed.

At Weymouth Drive, officers found three adult spaniels, five cocker spaniel puppies and two spaniel puppies which had been dead “for days”.

The litter of spaniel puppies tested positive for Giardia, a small parasite that attacks the intestines.


Seized phones were analysed and showed messages responding to adverts for puppies, using different names.

Other messages showed both Hayward and Kelly Bennett were sourcing puppies on a regular basis and placing adverts online using fake names and details, and claiming the puppies had been bred and reared in a family home.

Phone records revealed Ricky Bennett had taken payments for the puppies, while witnesses said they had paid money into Foster’s bank account too.

The RSPCA found the gang had used online sites Gumtree, Preloved and Pets4homes to advertise the sale of 500 puppies between December 2018 and March 2020.