California Horse Dealer Accused of Fraud

A California woman accused of misrepresenting horses she offered for sale on equine-related websites pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge under a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles last week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph N. Akrotirianakis said that between Nov. 2004 and June 2008, Trina Lee Kenney of Wrightwood, Calif., allegedly made false claims about the breed, registration status, health, abilities, and temperaments of horses she offered for sale on equine-focused websites including,,,, and

“In one case she drugged a horse that she claimed was safe for a child or a timid rider and painted other horses to the color horse she advertised," Akrotirianakis said. "In some cases buyers never received the horses they purchased."

Kenney's advertisements, some of which were placed under aliases, offered buyers a money back satisfaction guarantee. But she allegedly did not return calls or emails from dissatisfied customers and refused to return payments on misrepresented or undelivered horses, he said.

Kenney's alleged activities came to light after some dissatisfied customers filed complaints with the FBI's Internet Crimes Division. During an investigation, Kenney allegedly attempted to sell a nonexistant Friesian mare to both an undercover FBI agent and a U.S. Postal Inspector. After receiving $5,000 in payments for the mare, she allegedly did not respond to their emails and other inquiries about the transaction.

"So far we know of 61 prospective buyers in 23 states and in Canada that were defrauded, but there could be more," Akrotirianakis said.

Kenney agreed to plead guilty to a mail fraud charge on Aug. 26. Her attorney, Joseph Shemaria, said the accusations stem from a neighbor intent on discrediting Kenney. Kenney will be arraigned on the charge Sept. 7.

Though the case highlights risks connected with Internet horse sales, Kentucky attorney Milt Toby said prospective horse buyers should not assume all web sellers are dishonest.

"But the anonymity of the web invites unscrupulous behavior," he said. "It's also important to remember that dishonesty is not a one-way street, and that honest sellers can get cheated in an Internet deal."

To avoid potential online purchase pitfalls, Toby said buyers should request a written sales contract and bill of sale that contain a complete identification of the horse and the details of any warranty offered by the seller.

"If the seller insists on an 'as is' sale, which means no warranty at all, it should be a serious red flag for the buyer," he said.

Contracts should also stipulate which party pays shipment costs and when loss risk transfers from the seller to the buyer.

"Buyers should also require a prepurchase veterinarian exam by a veterinarian not associated with the seller and insist on a trial period before the sale becomes final," he said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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