MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- People love their pets and want to keep them safe. For many pet lovers, "Return A Pet" -- a company looking for investors, could have been a winner. However, FOX6's Contact 6 discovered the company's founder was a real loser.
People have a special bond with their pets. Therefore, 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," U.S. Postal Inspector Eleanor Berry said.
"He" is Eric Stein and he duped victims into investing in franchises for a business called "Return A Pet."
"They would pay between $5,000 and $50,000 and they would buy a territory," Berry said.
When pet lovers bought in, they received pet tags.
It says 'If found call' and it gives a toll free number and an ID number - so if a person found a stray dog or cat they would say 'okay let me call the number,'" Berry said.
The problem came in due to the fact that Stein never paid the phone bill. Therefore, if anyone called to report a lost or found pet, no one answered. The service was a sham -- and not Stein's first.
"He was involved in a Ponzi scheme in the late 90s," Berry said.
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," Berry said.
The "Return A Pet Scam" was launched shortly after Stein got out of prison.
FOX6's Contact 6 says investors beware: Always do homework before investing!
"The most important thing is to ask a lot of questions and you need to verify everything they tell you," Berry said.
Starting in 2007 - 2010, investors were bilked out of half a million dollars. Each investor lost between $5,000 and $50,000.
Stein now faces up to 40 years in prison.