Attorney General Rutledge Announces Lawsuit against Pair who Pocketed $160K using Pretend Pooches

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Attorney General Leslie Rutlegde Arkansasag dot govAttorney General Leslie Rutledge


March 29, 2021
Contact: Amanda Priest
(501) 414-2223

Attorney General Rutledge Announces Lawsuit against Pair who Pocketed $160K using Pretend Pooches

Says ‘two men scammed hopeful and trusting would-be pet owners out of hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a lawsuit against Helda Berinyuy and Thierry Ekwelle, both of Arkadelphia, for creating deceptive websites and advertising AKC-registered puppies at discounted prices. Hopeful families discovered after spending hundreds of dollars that the puppies were not real. Berinyuy was previously arrested for this scheme in 2019, but that did not deter either of them from continuing their “puppy scam” operation into 2021. The two used phony names, false promises, fake documents, and even COVID-19 fears to trick consumers into their trap. Berinyuy and Ekwelle are facing multiple violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA).

“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.”

This scheme was uncovered in late 2018, by a Central Arkansas grocery store manager who contacted local authorities to report two males who had visited the store multiple times – using multiple names – to pick up money, usually $500 to $700, using Western Union. The Benton Police Department discovered that between May 2017 and January 2019, Berinyuy and Ekwelle fraudulently took more than $78,000 from consumers who believed they were paying for a new dog. Throughout their entire scheme, the two stole more than $160,000 from unsuspecting victims.

As internet fraud exploded during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Berinyuy and Ekwelle revamped their operation to avoid detection and began using numerous websites and several electronic payment platforms, such as Walmart Money Center, Zelle, Money Gram, and Western Union. After a website became known to consumers as fraudulent, they would take down that particular site and publish a new one in its place to target new animal lovers. Once consumers paid for a puppy, and in order to fleece them further, Defendants posed as representatives from the Little Rock Municipal Airport and told consumers that the airport required another $900 to ship the dog in a specialized crate. Once customers realized this was a scam, they would try to contact Berinyuy and Ekwelle - with no luck.

The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office received multiple consumer complaints about Berinyuy’s and Ekwelle’s scam. In Arkansas, each violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act could result in injunctions and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

For more tips to help avoid falling victim to schemes similar to this, or to file a consumer-related claim with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, call (800) 482-8982, email or visit

About Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Leslie Carol Rutledge is the 56th Attorney General of Arkansas. Elected on November 4, 2014, and sworn in on January 13, 2015, she is the first woman and first Republican in Arkansas history to be elected as Attorney General. She was resoundingly re-elected on November 6, 2018. Since taking office, she has significantly increased the number of arrests and convictions against online predators who exploit children and con artists who steal taxpayer money through Social Security Disability and Medicaid fraud. Further, she has held Rutledge Roundtable meetings and Mobile Office hours in every county of the State each year, and launched a Military and Veterans Initiative. She has led efforts to roll back government regulations that hurt job creators, fight the opioid epidemic, teach internet safety, combat domestic violence and make the office the top law firm for Arkansans. Rutledge serves as co-chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General Veterans Affairs Committee, re-established and co-chairs the National Association of Attorneys General Committee on Agriculture and was the former Chairwoman of the National Association of Attorneys General Southern Region. As the former Chairwoman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, she remains active on the Executive Board.

A native of Batesville, she is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. Rutledge clerked for the Arkansas Court of Appeals, was Deputy Counsel for former Governor Mike Huckabee, served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Lonoke County and was an Attorney at the Department of Human Services before serving as Counsel at the Republican National Committee. Rutledge and her husband, Boyce, have one daughter. The family has a home in Pulaski County and a farm in Crittenden County.