Investment Scam Preys on Animal Lovers - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert

Investment Scam Preys on Animal Lovers


A veteran con artist is back behind bars after coming up with a new scam that preyed on animal lovers.

Officials say Eric Stein duped victims into investing in franchises for a business called "Return-a-Pet."

"They (victims) would pay between $5,000 and $50,000 and they would buy a territory," said Eleanor Berry, U.S. Postal Inspector.

When they bought in, they received pet tags containing a toll free number and ID number.  The service was supposed to help pet owners track their furry friend if it was to become lost or stray.

The problem: Stein never paid the phone bill.  So, if anyone called to report a lost or found pet, no one answered.

The service was a sham and it was not Eric Stein's first foray into fraud.

Postal inspectors say he was involved in a Ponzi scheme in the late 90s.  At that time, Stein and his cohorts bamboozled investors into buying direct response infomercials to the tune of $50 million.

"After he found out there was an arrest warrant out for him, he went on the lam for a year," said Berry. "He finally got caught and he was arrested."

The "Return-a-Pet" scam was launched shortly after Stein got out of prison. 

This fraud scheme went on for 3 years, bilking investors out of half a million dollars.

The message to investors: always do your homework.

"The most important thing is to ask a lot of questions and you need to verify everything, they tell you," Berry said.

Stein faces up to 40 years in prison.


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