The puppies looked adorable. They were small, fluffy…. and fake.
U.S. justice officials say a man capitalized on people looking for companion animals online to alleviate isolation and stress during the pandemic. He is standing trial for fraud in the U.S. after he was extradited from Romania.
The puppies, supposedly being shipped domestically in the U.S. to their new owners, never arrived. U.S. federal authorities say the dogs never existed.
Desmond Fodje Bobga, a Cameroon citizen, exploited a website to sell puppies and capitalized on people looking for companion animals online, as many are avoiding social contact due to the coronavirus pandemic, said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman.
The suspect, 28, made his initial appearance in federal district court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last week.
He was extradited from Cluj, Romania in December 2020 where he was a student.
The imaginary puppies were part of an international fraud scheme, justice officials said. Victims paid upfront for the dogs and also forked out for subsequent fake costs fraudsters claimed had been incurred. They claimed the animals had been quarantined because of
He is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, forging a seal of the U.S. Supreme Court, and aggravated identity theft, the U.S. State of Justice said.
“From across the globe, Desmond Fodje Bobga and his co-conspirators callously exploited consumers who were seeking the companionship of a pet to alleviate the isolation and stress caused by the Covid pandemic,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “Today he stands before the court in Pittsburgh to face justice.”
One victim who was seeking to purchase a mini-dachshund for her mother lost $9,100 in March 2020.
Another victim from Iowa and a couple from Texas lost smaller sums and made successive payments based on claims about transportation issues and other matters.
The criminal charges include a reference to a website, lovelyhappypuppy.com, to which he allegedly directed numerous victims to view puppies that he fraudulently claimed to sell:
US Department of Agriculture
Other fake issues triggering requests for more money from the victims included a supposed need to buy insurance or to obtain a U.S. Department of Agriculture permit.
He face a sentence up to 20 years for wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud charge . Forging of seal provides for a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Aggravated identity theft provides for a mandatory two years in prison.
Romanian law enforcement authorities including the Romanian National Police, the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and the Cluj Brigade for Combating Organized Crime, provided significant cooperation, a statement said.