El Paso, TX - The executive director of the El Paso Humane Society is in trouble with the law after an Ohio grand jury recently indicted him on charges of theft and securities fraud.
Luke Westerman lived and worked in Ohio prior to coming to El Paso to work with the Humane Society.
On December 27th, 2018, a grand jury in Franklin County, Ohio indicted Westerman on 19 counts of theft and unlawful securities practices.
At the time, Westerman was in charge of a venture capital firm that he founded in Columbus, Ohio
Some of the allegations against Westerman were made before he took the job as executive director of the El Paso Humane Society in December of 2017. The allegations date back to 2013.
Prosecutors say Westerman solicited more than $700,000 from ten residents in Ohio and allegedly misrepresented the status of the investments in false account statements. Authorities accuse Westerman of using some of the funds - about $300,000 - for personal expenses.
In a statement sent to ABC-7, the Humane Society of El Paso Board of Directors said its own investigation has shown that Westerman, acting in his official capacity, has in no way compromised the financial integrity of the Humane Society of El Paso.
The board added Westerman has been given time by the board to deal with his personal legal matters.
The HSEP board further stated, "Our shelter animals remain our main focus and we ask the community to keep the best interest of our animals in mind."
ABC-7 also received a statement from the former Board President of the Humane Society of El Paso.
Leticia Jimenez resigned from the board in 2018 because she says she disagreed with the board's handling of Westerman once they learned of his legal issues.
Jimenez said in her statement, "Unfortunately the Board did not wish to take further action. It is even tougher knowing that the Board received fair warning months ago and any damage to the Humane Society could have been mitigated."
ABC-7 called Westerman seeking comment about the allegations against him, but we did not hear back.
The charges against Westerman are first, second and third degree felonies. The two first degree felonies against him carry a sentence of 3-11 years in prison if convicted.