HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — A Highlands Ranch man was scammed out $1,180 after trying to purchase two Balinese kittens from a breeder in Pensacola, Florida.
Howard Jennings said he was interested in the Balinese breed because of their coat.
"I was looking for something that didn't shed as much, that was sort of hypoallergenic because my daughter's dog is a goldendoodle and she's hypoallergenic. She doesn't shed — no allergy problems or anything like that. So I was looking into cats like that, and the Balinese is the one that came up," he told Contact Denver7.
After he couldn't find a breeder in Colorado, Jennings said he began searching for one online. That's when he found Morgan J. Noellie with Labcats Home.
"They had a five star rating. And I read a lot of their reviews, which were excellent," Jennings said.
The two began communicating via text message, and Jennings selected two kittens. He was sent over a sales contract in early August.
Jennings told Contact Denver7 everything looked legitimate, and he sent the money via Zelle.
"Everything seemed to be above board, you know, until the shipping process," he said.
Jennings was told the cats would be shipped the next day and was sent a tracking number from Skyline Pet Delivery. However, when he checked the tracking number, it showed that the kittens were "on hold."
"That's when [the breeder] told me, 'Oh, I forgot to tell you. There's an insurance you have to pay for shipping the kittens. That's for their welfare.' And I said, 'Well, the shipping company hasn't contacted me about it," Jennings recalled. "'Oh, check your email.' And all of a sudden, there was an email from the shipping company that hadn't been there about an hour prior."
The breeder said Jennings would have to pay another $995 for the insurance, which would be refunded back upon delivery. That's when Jennings said he realized he fell for a scam.
"I explained to [the breeder] about the contract and how they were citing agencies that didn't exist. And I thought it was a scam. And she swore up and down it wasn't," he said.
Jennings texted the breeder and asked for his money back. The two went back-and-forth, until the breeder went dark. Jennings said he has not heard from the breeder and has not received a refund.
"I texted her a couple more times asking her what she was going to do, and if she was such a good Christian she would straighten things out with the shipping company or she could refund my $1,180 to my Zelle. And things got very quiet. I never heard from him since then," Jennings said.
Contact Denver7 called the breeder, and a man answered the phone. He initially denied doing business with Jennings until we mentioned the sales contract, which he asked to see. The man wouldn't answer any other questions and hung up.
Jennings said he filed a police report with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. A spokesperson said the report will be sent to their Financial Crimes detectives, who will follow up on any potential leads.
Jennings also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which called the incident a common scam.
"Once they have the money, they'll find another reason you need to send money,” said Roseann Freitas with the BBB. “One of the things we try to recommend is do a Zoom call to see the actual cat because nowadays, Zoom is so easy for anybody to use.”
The BBB recommends checking to see where the business is located and researching contact methods for the business besides a contact form. You should also see if the business is listed on the BBB's website. Third, look to see if the business is registered in the state it’s located. Lastly, Freitas suggests doing a Google search and putting the word "scam" behind it to see what pops up.
Jennings hopes his story will make others aware so they don't fall for the same scam he did.
“I just hope somebody can take these people down,” he said.
Jennings and his wife ended up adopting two cats from the Dumb Friends League in Castle Rock. He said they're adjusting quite nicely.
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