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As hearing looms, questions raised about sale of Hoskins’ horses

A week after Beth Lynne Hoskins reunited all of her 64 horses at her Aurora farm, questions were swirling this weekend about the actual intentions of the Rochester woman who was to have purchased 29 of the horses.

The $50,000 sale brokered by State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia just days earlier went belly up at the eleventh hour.

And what exactly went down with prospective buyer Jennifer Hartwell, an acquaintance of Hoskins, who runs Skyloft Morgan Farm in Scottsville, will remain a mystery until a Jan. 11 court hearing plays out.

Already, there is plenty of blame and accusations of lying.

Hartwell is not returning phone messages to The Buffalo News, but Hoskins’ attorney, George V.C. Muscato, said Hartwell on Christmas Eve asked if some of the horses could go to Hoskins’ farm until she could make room for them. Hoskins then redirected a horse hauler she knows to move the 29 horses from the Niagara County farm where they’d been housed since August to her own farm on Emery Road in Aurora, where her other 35 in the herd have been kept.

That’s the story on Hoskins’ end. Muscato also insists the SPCA Serving Erie County, which raided Hoskins’ farm in 2010 on suspicion of animal neglect, interfered with the sale of the 29 horses, and he wants the court to take a sanction against the SPCA.

SPCA attorney Ralph C. Lorigo said the agency never intimidated anyone to mess up the sale and has every right to do its homework and contact another animal welfare agency. The SPCA last week lobbied Glownia to stand by his Dec. 15 order to appoint a receiver for all 64 horses and to sell them or adopt them out if the 29 had not been sold by Dec. 21. The Hartwell purchase offer came along Dec. 22, but that unraveled, too.

Lorigo remains suspicious about the sale to Hartwell since numerous court orders and extensions for Hoskins to sell nearly half her horses have been snubbed. Hoskins has been convicted of 52 counts of animal cruelty involving her horses.

Many efforts to sell half of her herd have continued to fall apart for more than a year. The Hartwell one was the latest. “The history of this case is compelling,” Lorigo said.

A strong contradiction exists between what Hartwell reportedly told a high-ranking investigator from Lollypop Farm, Humane Society of Greater Rochester, on Dec. 17 – and what she testified under oath to Glownia in his chambers five days later when a purchase agreement with her was nailed down on Dec. 22.

On Dec. 17, when Lollypop Farm Investigator Reno DiDomenico, Lollypop’s director of humane law enforcement and a former Monroe County sheriff’s deputy, asked Hartwell whether she intended to buy the 29 horses in Erie County, she told him “No,” according to a report filed with the court and confirmed last week by The News with Lollypop Farm officials.

The SPCA contacted Lollypop Farm on Dec. 16 to find out what the agency knew about Hartwell’s farm of reportedly 30 horses and about eight stalls, and to learn whether it could handle an additional 29 horses.

The Lollypop Farm investigator claims that Hartwell denied she had plans to purchase the horses, Lorigo said.

The investigator also claimed Hartwell said she did not have the facilities for the horses, and at best, would accommodate Hoskins’ horses for only a short period of time, according to Lorigo.

In a separate matter, Lollypop officials are keeping an eye on Hartwell’s farm after investigating a citizen complaint in November about her horses’ general welfare, though they indicated matters seemed to be resolving on their latest visit in December.

On Dec. 22, Hartwell testified to Glownia that she was “ready, willing and able to take the horses the next day” and to pay for them, Lorigo said.

“Somebody’s not telling the truth,” Lorigo said.

In the courtroom last week, Lorigo also questioned why the advanced down payment came from someone else, in this case, Jean Knox, a former trustee of the Hoskins’ horse trust. “It is my belief the purchaser was not honest in that Dec. 22 testimony, and the money was advanced by someone else,” Lorigo said, referring to the $5,000 down payment made by Knox, Hoskins’ family friend.

Hoskins’ attorney said it didn’t matter who came up with the initial down payment. “They intimidated this buyer, and she was getting phone calls and social media” about the case from her customers and prospective customers, Muscato said of the SPCA and Hartwell. Yet, “there’s no question Beth has a toxic reputation at the moment,” Muscato said.

Lorigo said he planned to contact the court on Monday to find out whether a receiver has been appointed for the 29 horses.

The sale of the 29 horses should be done immediately or as soon as is practical, Glownia said.