Thousands taken by 'return-a-pet' scam

Inspectors say animal lovers duped out of cash


People and their pets have a special bond.  So, a business opportunity involving pets and promising to be "inflation and recession proof" sounded like a perfect match for thousands of people, but it wasn't.

"He preyed on the fact that people loved pets," said Eleanor Berry, US Postal Inspector.

When they bought in, they received pet tags.

"It says "If Found" calls and it gives a toll free number and an ID number – so if a person found a stray dog or cat they would say ok let me call the number," said Berry.

Berry goes on to say the problem, "He 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 Inspectors say this was not Eric Stein's first, either.

"He was involved in a Ponzi scheme in the late 90s," said Berry.

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. He finally got caught and he was arrested," said Berry.

The "return-a-pet" scam was launched shortly after Stein got out of prison.  Investors beware: always do your homework before investing.

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

From 2007 through 2010, investors were bilked out of $500,000.  Each investor lost between $5,000 and $50,000.  Stein now faces up to 40 years in prison.