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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Woman Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Horse Buyers

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A San Bernardino woman who drugged and painted horses that she sold over the Internet to deceive buyers will serve 41 months in federal prison.

In addition to the 41-month prison term, U.S. District Judge Howard Matz ordered Trina Lee Kenney, 32, on Wednesday to pay more than $272,000 in restitution to 88 victims.

Matz took issue with the indifference that Kenney, a Wrightwood resident, felt for her victims, prosecutors said. Matz told Kenney that she "broke their hearts and stole their money," as quoted by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

If Kenney delivered any of the horses she sold, they did not come as advertised. Kenney admitted that she drugged horses to make them appear docile and safe for children and beginner riders. She also said that she applied black paint to the natural brown coats of at least two horses. Other horses she delivered were starved, were covered in sores and cuts, had hooves that had been untrimmed so the horses were unable to walk, or were suffering from strangles, a severely contagious equine respiratory disease.

In Kenney's October 2010 plea to mail fraud, she admitted having defrauded prospective horse purchasers in 23 states and Canada.

Kenney conducted the scheme by advertising horses through several straw business with names such as Prestige Distribution, Horses and Ponies, and Star Horses. She created the websites, too, some of which were named dreamhorse.com, equine.com and horsetopia.com.

Complaints spread across the Internet as Kenney tried using different aliases to continue the scheme.

"Kenney's ads were fraudulent because she made false claims that the horses had specific physical characteristics, abilities and temperaments; that horses were specific breeds or had specific pedigrees; or that the horses were registered with national or international organizations," according to a statement by prosecutors. "Kenney also made false claims about the horses' health and a 'money back' guarantee. After receiving payment for a horse purchase, Kenney defrauded customers in a number of ways, including failing to provide a horse, failing to refund monies to victims who received substandard horses, and delivering a different horse than promised."

"In documents filed in relation to the sentencing, prosecutors argued that Kenney's crimes 'involved significant cruelty to helpless and often distressed animals dependant on [Kenney] for care,'" the statement continues. "The government sentencing memo quotes a former Kenney employee as reporting: 'The question was not when the horses were fed, but "if" the horses were fed or had water.'"

Undercover agents caught Kenney when she tried to sell them "Azure" - a Friesian mare Kenney had fabricated - for $5,000.

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