Monday, August 30, 2021

Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Customers in Scam Involving Fake Sales of Puppies

 Defendant Used Various Websites, Collected Over $158,000 in Wire Transfers

            WASHINGTON – A Maryland man who advertised the sale of pit bull puppies on various websites pleaded guilty today to a scheme in which he generated at least $158,000 in money transfers from more than 100 victims who never got the dogs.

            The guilty plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Washington, D.C.

            Fonjeck Eric Azoh, 42, of Mount Rainier, Md., pleaded guilty to wire fraud. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties. As part of the plea agreement, Azoh agreed that a restitution order of at least $158,000 is appropriate in the case. He also agreed to forfeit $67,000 seized by law enforcement during the investigation and pay an additional $92,000 forfeiture money judgment. Azoh will be sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Nov. 17, 2021, by the Honorable Carl J. Nichols.

            According to the government’s evidence, between January 2019 and October 2020, Azoh offered the pit bull puppies, using various websites. He agreed to sell these puppies to victims living throughout the United States even though he never intended to provide them. Azoh directed victims to send money to him through money transfer businesses, which he then collected at retail stores and elsewhere. Throughout the scheme, Azoh collected at least $158,000 from at least 119 victims who lived in 40 different states.

            Azoh was arrested in January 2021 and has been in custody ever since.

            In announcing the plea, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillips and Special Agent in Charge Villanueva commended the work of those who investigated the case from HSI. They also expressed appreciation for the work of those who handled the case at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorney John W. Borchert, who prosecuted the case.

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