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NY Conman Charged in 'Return-A-Pet' Scam

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on January 27, 2012 6:07 AM

A convicted New York City con artist's "Return-A-Pet" scam has come back to bite him.

Eric Stein, 53, of Manhattan, faces charges of mail and wire fraud in connection with the scam that made him at least $500,000 richer, the New York Daily News reports.

Stein allegedly sold investors on his "Return-A-Pet" business, which Stein -- using a fake name -- said would reunite heartbroken pet owners with their lost animal companions.

It may have sounded like a moneymaker -- but the doggone business wasn't real.

Eric Stein's "Return-A-Pet" scam involved using print and Internet advertising with fake references to earn investors' trust, the Daily News reports.

Stein likely used a fake name to hide his criminal past: He served six years in prison for another scam in Las Vegas. Stein used TV commercials for useless products to defraud investors of at least $34 million in the 1990s, according to the Daily News.

Stein was released from prison in 2005. He allegedly ran his "Return-A-Pet" scam while still on parole.

Stein's mail and wire fraud charges require a fraudulent or deceitful scheme to steal money from others. Wire fraud requires the use of interstate "wires," which could also include television, radio, and the Internet.

Wire fraud is a federal offense, because it involves interstate commerce. In Stein's case, prosecutors say he ripped off dozens of investors around the country.

It seems the old dog hasn't learned any new tricks for evading the law. If convicted on both counts of fraud for his "Rent-A-Pet" scam, Eric Stein could head back to prison for up to 40 years.

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