Wake County service dog supplier arrested, faces fraud charges
Posted February 25, 2020 4:24 p.m. EST
Updated February 27, 2020 10:33 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — The president of a Raleigh company that promised customers service dogs and closed its doors in 2018 was arrested on fraud charges on Thursday, records show.
Mark Mathis, who created Ry-Con Service Dogs nine years ago, was indicted by a Wake County grand jury on 42 counts of obtaining property by false pretense, Attorney General Josh Stein said Tuesday.
Mathis was being held in the Wake County Jail on Thursday but he has since bonded out after posting a $500,000 bond.
More than 50 families filed complaints with the attorney general's office about Ry-Con, saying they paid the company for animals that were never properly trained to work with their special-needs children.
Customers paid anywhere from $4,500 to $16,710 for service dogs to help family members with autism and other medical concerns, Stein said. Some of the dogs then got into fights with other dogs or bit people.
A Florida woman who paid Ry-Con $9,600 for a service dog to help calm her daughter diagnosed with autism told WRAL News that the dog the family received wasn't fit to be a pet, let alone a service dog.
"She wasn't trained," Rebecca Peluso said. "She wasn't socialized, housebroken. She was (an) underweight, skittish mess," she said. "She was aggressive. She went after our pet."
Mathis started Ry-Con after getting a trained service dog for one of his sons, who has autism. He said the nonprofit never had any trouble until financial difficulties forced its closure in November.
As Ry-Con was closing and clearing out its kennels, the nonprofit offered the dogs still in training to their families immediately, he said.
"We were concerned (that), with our staffing and financial challenges, we would no longer be able to operate the training kennels. The dogs’ care was our primary concern," Mathis said at the time. "Some of them had to go home earlier than their original planned graduation. Some of them went home on time, but aftercare support was not immediately available.
"This is not the same as selling untrained dogs, and certainly not a willful act or scam," he continued. "Our goal was always to provide an economical and valuable option to families in need."
Stein alleged Mathis knew the dogs he offered to families were not adequately trained as service dogs.
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of Mathis or Ry-Con can call the state Department of Justice at 919-716-6400 and ask to be transferred to the Criminal Division.