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Jeffrey Parris gets 7-year sentence in dognapping case

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Jeffrey Paul Parris has been sentenced to seven years in prison after a plea deal on a case in which he held the victim’s dog for ransom after taking the dog and other items during a burglary. Parris’ co-defendants James Emery and Alissa Balestrieri also reached plea deals in the case.

On November 2, 2020, while the victim was not at home, he was contacted by an unknown phone number that said he had been robbed and his dog had been taken. The message said the victim would have to pay $20,000 if he wanted his dog returned. The victim contacted the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ASO), and deputies confirmed that a burglary had occurred at his residence and that entry was made through a broken window. $15,000 in cash, two handguns, Louis Vuitton shoes, and a Louis Vuitton hoodie were stolen, in addition to the dog.

In the hours following the initial text, the victim received texts saying he was being watched and accurately stating his location; a tracker was later found attached to his car. The money drop was postponed to the next day, but the messages resumed early the next morning, including threats to harm the dog and a threat to “send her f—ing paws in a box.” The ransom was also raised to $25,000.

Later in the day, ASO detectives took control of the victim’s phone and arranged a drop location at the Brighton Beach Carwash at 11202 NW U.S. Hwy 441. Using the victim’s car, deputies dropped a bag that did not contain money at the carwash and sent a picture of the bag to the dognappers.

Within minutes, an SUV registered to Balestrieri arrived, and Parris was seen picking up the bag. Parris then sent another text saying there was no money in the bag. Deputies followed and performed a felony stop on the SUV and arrested Parris. The dog was found alive in the SUV, and other stolen items were also found in the vehicle. A search warrant of Parris’ house found both of the stolen guns, $14,940 in cash, and the packaging for the tracker.

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The cash was later returned to Parris after his attorney argued that it was unrelated to the case; after it was returned, Parris was able to post bail.

Parris, 36, has been sentenced to seven years in prison after a plea deal on charges of armed burglary, grand theft of a firearm, extortion, unlawful use of a communications device, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. James Emery, 32, a co-defendant, had previously reached a plea deal on charges of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and unlawful use of a communications device and is serving a 24-month prison sentence, with credit for 260 days served. Parris’ wife, Alissa Balestrieri, 35, reached a plea deal in which she will serve five years of probation on charges of grand theft, grand theft of a firearm, extortion, and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. Parris and Balestrieri must pay $10,000 in restitution to the victim, and Emery must pay $5,000 in restitution.

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