Published: Apr 30, 2013 5:36 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 30, 2013 6:13 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Call for Action uncovers a scam targeting pet lovers. As we found out, thousands of people were duped.

People and their pets. It's a special bond. So a business opportunity involving pets and promising to be inflation and recession proof sounded like a perfect match for thousands of people, but it wasn't.

Eric Stein duped victims into investing in franchises for a business called "Return-A-Pet."

"They would pay between $5,000 and $50,000 and they would buy a territory," said Eleanor Berry, U.S. Postal Inspector.

When they bought in, they received pet tags.

"It says 'If Found' calls and it gives a toll free number and an ID number. So, if a person found a stray dog or cat, they would say, 'OK, let me call the number'," said Berry.

The problem is, Stein never paid the phone bill. So, if anyone called to report a lost of found pet, no one answered. The service was a sham. It wasn't Stein's first sham either.
 
"He was involved in a Ponzi scheme in the late 90s," said Berry.

Starting in 2007 through 2010, investors were cheated out of $500,000. Each investor lost between $5,000 and $50,000. Stein now faces up to 40 years in prison.