The US has charged a 27-year-old Cameroonian student with exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to scam people into buying puppies which didn’t exist, the justice department said.
Fodje Bobga, a university student in Romania, has been arrested.
He was charged in the city of Pittsburgh with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, forging a seal of the US Supreme Court and aggravated identity theft.
The website he used in the alleged scheme, www.lovelyhappypuppy.com, has been deleted, the department said.
The authorities accuse him of exploiting the social isolation during Covid-19 pandemic to defraud victims using photos of cute puppies.
“With the holiday season upon us, and the desire for companionship higher than ever, don’t fall prey to scammers selling pets online,” US Attorney Scott Brady is quoted as saying.
The BBC’s Jonathan Savage reports that one of the victims include a woman in Pennsylvania, who was conned out of more than $9,000 (£6,700) trying to secure a mini-dachshund puppy for her mother.
Another victim lost $1,500 attempting to purchase a teacup Chihuahua named Bentley.
The FBI Special Agent in Charge, Michael Christman, warned “the pandemic has created the perfect condition for unscrupulous pet sellers to thrive”.