In 2004 The Savannah Cat was beginning to get recognition and gain in popularity.  At some point in time, we can only suppose Simon Francis Campbell Brodie learned of Savannahs.  As a con artist with a long history, he figured out a way to take advantage by using Savannahs and calling them Ashera Cats.

Mr. Brodie has many aliases that he has used in many schemes.  The cons date back to the year 1991 according to the Messy Beast site.  His list of cons began in finance and range from hot air balloons, consulting, teaching, software, diamondback skis, glow in the dark deer, and ending up selling the Ashera Cat, ‘the biggest cat in the world that was hypoallergenic.’  The only part of that quote that is true is the HYPE.

This Savannah Cat was advertised as a rare Ashera cat
This Savannah Cat was advertised as a rare Ashera cat

The con began by Brodie setting up a company which claimed to be cloning cats.  He took deposits as pet owners lined up to clone their pets.  Lawsuits piled up and Brodie defaulted on loans and rent.  He changed company names and went in a different direction.

In June of 2006, Brodie was busy trying to sell the Ashera.  He owned a corporation called Allerca.  Megan Young was the CEO.  Together they sold innocent people franchises that would be able to sell the Ashera cat.  Mr. Brodie was very good at writing press releases that garnered the attention of television stations and news outlets.  His Allerca cats became an overnight sensation.

Brodie promised cats to individuals.  He sold franchises to people who wanted to raise the Allerca cats.  He collected huge sums of money and never delivered.

During this time, many Savannah Cat breeders got wind of what was going on.  They began to look at the cats and how Brodie said they were bred.  ‘Serval to mutt cat’ were his words.  Many Savannah breeders put warning notices on their websites about Brodie and his rebranded Savannah cats.

Proof?

There is a blog on blogspot.com that details the entire transaction and experience between Mr. Brodie and a family.  This was a family who wanted a cat and previously had allergies to cats.  It is an interesting read and here are a few highlights:

  • “There was nobody else in the company to speak to, only Simon, and when you call the main number there are a bunch of voice mailboxes, but only Simon will call you back.”
  • “The money has to be wired to the United Arab Emirates before he will ship the cats.”
  • “Once he had my money, over $14,000 with shipping fees, he was very sporadic about replying to emails, often just didn’t bother, despite months passing AFTER the time frame he promised the cats would arrive.”
  • “Turns out, my son and husband were completely allergic to these cats… So now my mother has two Savannahs, and we can’t visit her because the house is so allergenic to my family.”
  • “The cats were sent directly from A1 Savannahs* in Oklahoma.  I called the vet that signed off on the kittens before transport.  She was VERY reluctant to talk to me and said I needed to call “Stucki” myself.”
  • “I called A1 Savannah directly to inquire whether or not they were breeding cats for Allerca, etc.  She hung up on me and wouldn’t answer the phone after that.”
  • “I went on the A1 Savannah website, and all the photos of their cats were the same photos that Simon had sent to me before the delivery of the first two kittens, so I could choose which ones I wanted.
  • “HE IS NOT SELLING HYPOALLERGENIC CATS, AND HE IS CHARGING OVER $6,000 FOR SAVANNAHS THAT A1 CHARGES $1,200 FOR!!!”
  • “And his Ashera cats at $27,950, are just the big Savannahs.”

No one could tell that story better than those few quotes.

Caught again

In the beginning of 2008, a Savannah breeder sold three kittens to A1 Savannahs.  Shortly afterward three Ashera kittens were confiscated at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands.  Within a short period of time, DNA tests were run to determine the cats were truly Savannahs and who they came from.  One of those cats died in the custody of the Dutch authorities.  It is unknown the outcome of the remaining two.

The Sting

In July of 2013, ABC news ran a sting operation and got Mr. Brodie on video.  It seems it was no easy task to find him.  Find him they did though, in London.  This time Brodie had changed his name and seemed to be selling Bengals as Ashera cats.  The payment for the so-called Ashera is now $7000 and sent to Dubai.  Now, ABC has some super intelligent staff and one young lady followed the geotag on the photo of the kitten Brodie was selling to the ABC sting team.  The team searched for cats for sale in that area and found the same kitten for sale on a site for $260.  The ABC team did quite a good job on the investigation and has more proof that Brodie’s cats are NOT hypoallergenic and that Brodie never had proof to the contrary.

The Ashera seems a lucrative business for Brodie.  He will most likely continue to pop up selling his phony hypoallergenic cats from time to time.

LSL

*A1, mentioned in a quote above is on its third owner and not the same person that was in this scheme.