By Andy Sheehan

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Many people are now turning to the internet to find their family pets.

It doesn’t take much. You see a picture of an adorable puppy online and you’re hooked.

However, the FBI has a new warning about an international scam that has already made victims out of hundreds of Americans.

What dog lover wouldn’t want one? Heart-achingly cute Akita puppies for the taking on a website for a breeder named John.

He had Cory Jurick at hello.

“I read everything on the website and it seemed like he really cared for the breed and the way he raised the puppies,” Jurick said.

It was a very professional looking site with stories, pictures and videos on each of a dozen Akita pups.

When Jurick contacted him, John set the hook and offered her two for the price of one.

“I picked out one. Her name was Rosie, and my son picked out one, his name was Rocky,” Jurick said. “Oh, they were just so adorable. Rocky was sitting on a bed watching a TV, and he would just get up wagging his tail.”

Watch Andy Sheehan’s follow-up report here —

From there, John began extracting cash – $760 for the dogs, which she could pick up at his kennel in Norfolk, Virginia. Since she couldn’t, she’d have to pay to have them shipped.

“I needed to get state required insurance and a city permit. And it was going to be $1,395 and they couldn’t ship the puppies without that,” Jurick said.

Fighting a sinking feeling. Jurick reluctantly wired more money, got a crate and prepared for the dogs’ arrival.

“I went to the local pet store and bought the puppy food he told me to buy and some toys and some dog dishes,” Jurick said.

As you probably can guess by now, the puppies never came.

“I always lived by the motto of treating people the way you want to be treated, and I gave this man every benefit of the doubt and even when I questioned the legitimacy of this thing, I still held out hope,” Jurick said.

Posing as a prospective Akita buyer, KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan contacted John.

Sheehan was offered me the same pup named Rocky and was even given me the same address for pickup that he gave Jurick – 524 Pembroke Avenue, Norfolk.

The family that lives at that address told Sheehan they aren’t breeders, knew nothing of Akitas and don’t even own a dog.

Eventually, Sheehan got John on the phone. After identifying himself as a reporter and saying John was being recorded, he maintained that he was legit.

Sheehan: “You took $1,500 from this woman promising her a Rocky and Rosie, but these dogs don’t exist do they?

John: “I think you have me mistaken with someone else.”

Sheehan: “You gave her an address, 524 Pembroke Avenue in Norfolk, Virginia.”

At that point, John hung up.

“Cyber criminals don’t discriminate. They don’t care who you are, where you’re from, they just want your money,” FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Greg Nelsen said.

There is no Rocky or Rosie — no Akitas at all — only stock photos and videos available for download on the internet. According to the FBI, John is part of a scam of international reach being operated out of Cameroon in Africa.

“West Africa is one of the areas we’re aware of that some of this cyber fraud originates from and they make it appear as if they’re talking to you somewhere in the United States to make you feel more comfortable dealing with them,” Nelsen said.

Mislaid trust, added Jurick to the list of thousands of victims nationwide.

“It’s just hard for me to believe that there are people like this out there that take advantage of families and people’s love of animals,” Jurick said.

In order to avoid scams like this, Nelsen has some advice.

“Meet that person in person, verify where they’re coming from, verify the business, verify that they’ve done business in the past, and then exchange money in person if at all possible,” he said.

Since the incident, Jurick has adopted an Akita named Luna. She is from a rescue from New Kensington.

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