A Round Lake man is facing over a dozen felonies after authorities say he orchestrated an internet scam by advertising puppies for sale and scamming victims out of money.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul charged Mondum Hycenth, 41, of Round Lake, with 16 felonies in Lake County Circuit Court.
Hycenth was charged with theft, wire fraud, seven counts of burglary and seven counts of forgery.
The charges are Class 2 and 3 felonies. The most serious charges carry up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Raoul said that Hycenth’s victims attempted to purchase puppies through online advertisements.
The victims sent payments through a money transfer service but did not receive the puppies, Raoul said. They were unable to get their money back.
Hycenth used falsified identification and forged a signature to collect the money from transfer services located in retail stores, Raoul said.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) conducted the investigation.
“People trying to add a pet to their families or find a furry friend for companionship instead fell prey to a scam. I encourage consumers to thoroughly research online sellers and be wary of sending payments through nontraditional methods, such as money transfers and peer-to-peer payment services,” Raoul said.
“Today’s charges are the result of collaboration with Homeland Security Investigations and our retail partners. I would like to thank them for their work to hold this alleged scammer accountable,” Raoul added.
Hycenth, who was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month, appeared for an initial court hearing Wednesday.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled to appear in court again on March 12.
“Puppy scams aren’t much different than romance scams, in that they manipulate an individual’s emotions and desire for companionship in an effort to steal from them,” said HSI Chicago Special Agent in Charge Sean Fitzgerald.
“As with any business transaction, I urge consumers to research the seller, request recommendations and to refrain from purchasing a pet without seeing it in person. Conducting this type of research, prior to sending a payment, can help save consumers from experiencing a significant financial loss,” Fitzgerald said.
Raoul’s Statewide Grand Jury Bureau prosecutes multi-county cases involving drugs, money laundering, guns and electronics.
The bureau focuses on complex, often large-scale, organized criminal activity and works regularly with state and federal agencies.
Anyone who has been the victim of a scam is encouraged to file a complaint on the Illinois Attorney General’s website or call 800-386-5438.