Charlotte man was 'money mule' in fake puppy scam, affidavit says

by: Blake Hanson Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A Charlotte man is accused of moving money overseas in a scam that promised victims puppies, fake identification documents and other items that never arrived.

Alvin Mbenyenlla is currently in the Mecklenburg County Jail. He's charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, according to court records.

Documents filed along with federal charges last week indicate Mbenyenlla acted as a money mule with unidentified conspirators based in Cameroon. Court records said the scheme involved conspirators advertising to sell products on the internet. Investigators said victims who responded to internet pet ads, for example, would wire funds then never receive the pets.

The feds said Mbenyenlla used aliases to pick up at least $500,000 in wired funds from investors from 2014 until now. Investigators claim he admitted over Facebook messages that he usually kept 20 to 30 percent of the money.

"It's handing them cash, it's not retrievable, it's not refundable, it's gone and they have got you," Tom Bartholomy with the Better Business Bureau said.

Bartholomy said scams involving puppies are not uncommon and can ramp up around Christmas. He said prospective buyers should ask questions about breeders and registration with the American Kennel Club.

"Asking (sellers) questions about their business, they may be into it enough that they know how to lie and give you the answers around those things, but you can verify," Bartholomy said.

Mbenyella appeared in court Monday however his defense ask that the hearing be continued due to other proceedings that might impact the case. His listed defense attorney did not respond to an email requesting comment Monday.

The court rescheduled his hearing for Friday.

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