COOPER CITY— An hour after Munchkin the miniature horse vanished Monday evening, owner Tammy Worth was hot on the trail of the rustler.
In the Wild West World Wide Web, she thought, there are not that many places a horse thief can go to peddle a four-legged filly.
She checked Craigslist. And there it was.
"It's a horse. I mean, where else would you sell a horse?" she said Wednesday, about the popular online classifieds site. "If it was a TV or a radio, or even a puppy, you would sell it to one of your buddies. But this is a horse."
Worth said she typed the search words "mini horse" and was surprised to see the headline "mini horse for sale" for an ad placed in Cooper City.
Hours later, investigators with the Broward Sherriff's Office arrested Tyler Carlin, 19, of Cooper City, who they say tried to sell the 2-foot-tall horse through the Craigslist ad.
After a neighborhood search and an undercover sting operation, Munchkin, the 9-year-old dwarf horse with the distinctive scar under its left eye, was back home before midnight Monday.
"I am just very glad she's OK," said Don Worth Jr., 8, Worth's son.
The brief horse caper began at about 5:30 p.m. Monday, as Worth set out to mow the lawn at her ranch house in the 5000 block of 100th Avenue.
Worth, who once owned a pet store and now keeps dozens of small animals outside her home, usually lets Munchkin out of her small pen to roam free in the evenings. Neighborhood kids usually come from blocks around to play with the horse.
On Monday, Munchkin apparently trotted a bit too far down a long and narrow driveway that leads to a busy street.
Worth said she noticed her front gate was propped open, and Munchkin was gone. She believes the thief used a half-empty Gatorade bottle — found at the scene — as a lure.
Investigators alerted patrolling deputies, describing the fawn-colored horse that weighs less than 150 pounds. While Worth started her cyber sleuthing, friends and family scoured the neighborhood.
When Worth spotted the ad on Craigslist, she called detectives, who set up an undercover sting.
According to an arrest report, a deputy called the phone number in the ad and arranged to meet the seller, who lived less than two miles away.
The deputy showed up at Carlin's home in an unmarked car and wearing civilian clothing. Carlin showed the deputy the horse he was keeping in the backyard and agreed to sell it for $300, according to the deputy's report.
Worth made a positive identification, noting the tell-tale scar under the left eye.
Carlin was arrested without incident, and bonded out of jail Tuesday. He is charged with grand theft of a commercial farm animal and dealing in stolen property. He could not reached Wednesday for comment.
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