Oct 27, 2010

LOS ANGELES. A Southern California horse dealer has reached a plea deal after being accused of selling animals that were sick, drugged and sometimes painted a different color, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Trina Lee Kenney, of Wrightwood, agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of mail fraud, said assistant U.S. attorney Joseph Akrotirianakis. Prosecutors allege Kenney tricked one customer by drugging a horse to make it appear calm and painted at least two others to match the color she advertised. She also was accused of accepting money for horses that customers never received and may not have ever existed.

Sixty-one known victims were found in 23 states” from Washington state to West Virginia and in Canada, Akrotirianakis said.

Kenney sold horses online. She used a variety of websites to place her ads and used at least 14 aliases, the plea agreement said. The 32-year-old kept changing her name and websites to avoid getting caught.

An FBI agent and a U.S. postal inspector set up a sting operation, paying $5,000 for a Friesian mare named “Azure” that did not exist. Kenney took the money but did not deliver a horse and refused to respond to them.

“She did do some wrong things and exercise some bad judgment,” said Kenney’s attorney, Joseph Shemaria of Los Angeles. “That’s the reason she got into trouble, the reason the U.S. attorney’s office picked up on it and the reason we decided not to go to trial.”

However, he defended her as “a dyed-in-the-wool animal lover” who would go to great lengths to rescue horses and a mother who taught her three children to love the animals.