After contacting the company, according to postal inspectors, the alleged victims spoke to a male individual on the phone who called himself either "Robert Philips" or "Eric Stein." One victim in Texas allegedly wired $50,433.22 to a Return-A-Pet bank account and received only 50 collar tags and 200 brochures in return. After becoming suspicious, the victim called the toll-free number listed on the pet tags and left a message with the answering service, pretending to have found a lost dog. The call was never returned.
Postal inspectors said they had read interviews that Stein had conducted with the media while he was in prison, and that during those interviews Stein had described methods, including providing references, that he had allegedly used in the Rent-A-Pet scam as well. "It's all about the packaging and the picture that you paint for them," Stein told the Wall Street Journal, "the image, all about the dream you're making for them."
In 2005, after his release from prison, Stein told Franchising Times that franchising was the perfect vehicle for felons because, among other reasons, they've learned to get along with a variety of people ("In prison, you learn social skills or else," he says), they're used to hard work and following orders.
And, they've learned their lesson, he contended; they don't want to go back to prison.
"All the remorse in the world won't get you your integrity back," he said