Friday, June 14, 2024
Agents from Homeland Security Investigations & Federal Bureau of Investigations Cyber Task Force conduct an investigation. (Photo Credit – FBI)

Washington, D.C. – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking information and/or victims regarding alleged illegal drawings and raffles for horses, livestock, or merchandise via social media that were conducted under “deception and misrepresentation”.

According to the FBI, these scams involved situations in which a winner never received the awarded prize, was expected to pay inflated or hidden fees when collecting the reward, or the award was switched with a lesser prize.

The FBI is also “seeking information regarding the purchase of horses, livestock, or merchandise from a livestock company to discover the item was not as described or advertised correctly and/or expected to pay inflated, hidden fees prior to taking possession of the purchase.”

Equestrian Media Group has also had an increase in tips and reports from consumers related to illegal raffles and drawings by for-profit actors in the northwest, as well as allegations against horse auction and sale companies.

In September 2023, we reported on an investigation by the Idaho Lottery Enforcement Division involving an equestrian company’s illegal raffles for horses. That case involved Weber Family Quarter Horses operated by Afton Weber.

That same month, this publication also started to report widespread allegations of fraud against the now-defunct company PNW Horse Sales and several horse traders who were allegedly concealing their role in the business. That included notorious horse trader Don Nowlin, who now reportedly operates the Enumclaw Sales Pavilion in Washington State.

The ordeal with PNW Horse Sales has also led to this publication’s issues with Oregon State Fair officials, prompting EMG’s editor to file a lawsuit alleging constitutional violations after the subsequent implementation of a “media policy”. The story was later picked up by Willamette Week after Oregon State Fair officials rescinded the policy.

Despite the ongoing scrutiny that embroiled the public body, Oregon State Fair officials have continued to obstruct numerous requests for records as part of this publication’s investigative reporting into the fraud allegations by PNW Horse Sales and associated horse traders.

Despite many of these raffles and drawings being limited to non-profit organizations and even requiring those non-profits to obtain licensing– raffle drawings remain an ongoing practice within the equestrian industry by for-profit interests, including many businesses that are also unregistered as local businesses.

The lack of business registration, in many cases, makes it difficult for consumers to identify those behind the entities with authorities.

In many cases, individuals have also tried to hold these raffles. Equestrian Media Group reported on one particular raffle in January of 2022 held by an Oregon woman. The issue came to light after numerous equestrians raised issues with Equestrian Media Group.

The efforts by the FBI show their intent to curtail these practices, which ultimately defraud consumers.

In many cases, victims are completely unaware they are even being defrauded and that these raffle and prize drawings are done illegally in their respective states.

Some operations have tried adding disclaimers saying “no purchase necessary” at the end, but according to several state authorities, the disclaimers aren’t quite sufficient, and oftentimes, consumers still pay the fees for drawing entry. Some consumers have reportedly been forced to pay later or are defrauded by not being considered in the drawing if they ask for free entry.

Lottery & sweepstakes regulations are also enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

According to multiple agencies, such laws are intended to protect consumers by preventing the potential for deceptive and unfair business practices involving such raffles, which can be plagued with questions of accountability.

The FBI has provided an intake form for anyone with information and/or who may have been a victim of alleged drawings or raffles for horses or other livestock. You can access the form at: https://forms.fbi.gov/OnlineLotteryScam/