AG Rutledge files lawsuit against pair accused of pocketing $160k using fake dogs

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Monday her office has filed a lawsuit against two men accused of creating deceptive websites and advertising AKC-registered puppies at discounted prices.

Helda Berinyuy and Thierry Ekwelle face multiple violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA).

The attorney general said Berinyuy and Ekwelle used phony names, fake promises, fake documents and COVID-19 fears to trick consumers.

According to Rutledge, Berinyuy was arrested for this scheme in 2019.

The attorney general’s office noted the scheme was uncovered in late 2018 by a central Arkansas grocery store manager who contacted local authorities to report two men who visited the store multiple times, using multiple names, to pick up money, usually $500 to $700, using Western Union.

Benton police discovered between May 2017 and January 2019, Berinyuy and Ekwelle took more than $78,000 from people who believed they were paying for a new dog.

The attorney general’s office said throughout the entire scheme, the two men stole more than $160,000 from unsuspecting victims.

“Thankfully, no puppies were harmed in this scheme, but sadly, these two men scammed hopeful and trusting would-be pet owners out of hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I will not tolerate unconscionable scams that are so harmful to Arkansans. Help me stop awful scams like this by contacting my office if you experience any fraudulent scheme.”

Rutledge’s office said as internet fraud exploded during the pandemic, Berinyuy and Ekwelle revamped their operation and began using numerous websites and several electronic payment platforms, such as Walmart Money Center, Zelle, Money Gram and Western Union. Officials say as consumers became aware a website was fraudulent, the two would take down that site and publish a new one in its place.

Rutledge said once the customers paid for the puppy, Berinyuy and Ekwelle posed as representatives from the Little Rock Municipal Airport and told customers that the airport required another $900 to ship the dog in a specialized crate.

According to the attorney general’s office, each violation of ADTPA could result in injunctions and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

To file a consumer-related claim with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, call (800) 482-8982, email consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

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