Investigator: Animal rescue owner accused of identity theft

4:51 PM, Mar 1, 2013   |    comments
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  • Crystal Luli

LORAIN -- The Lorain County Sheriff's Office charged the director of the Ohio Pet Placement Foundation with identity theft and forgery in connection with the use a veterinarian's name to order medical supplies.

Crystal Luli, 38, of Lorain, is accused of using the name and information of a veterinarian who worked at the rescue operation to open an account with a medical supply company, said Lt. Donald Barker. Luli then ordered more than $600 worth of supplies.

Luli was not immediately available for comment.

The Ohio Pet Placement Foundation finds homes for lost, abused, abandoned, unwanted and neglected animals. 

Just last week, Cleveland City Council honored her for taking part in saving 27 pit bulls, mostly young adult dogs, that were taken from an E. 91st Street home in December when police served a search warrant at the house for illegal dog fighting.

The Sheriff's Office said the veterinarian, Cathryne Wittlinger, came to the station on February 14 after receiving invoices for the supplies.

When questioned about the accusations, Luli told police that she had the veterinarian's permission, but Wittlinger denied that was the case, Barker said.

This is not the first time Luli has been in trouble. In August 2011, the Veterinary Medical Licensing Board voted to deny a business facility license to the Animal House vet clinic that Crystal and Michael Luli operated.

The decision cited the story by Investigator Tom Meyer as well as multiple complaints that the clinic was unsanitary, had submitted a fraudulent application and had refused to cooperate with the board's investigation.

Channel 3 News had first exposed the Animal House in June, 2011 when it reported that an 18-year-old employee who held no license related to veterinary medicine was caught on video operating on a dog. The employee was castrating the dog under the supervision of veterinarian James Dittoe.   

Theresa Stir, the board's executive director, said in August 2011 that the Animal House must immediately stop treating animals brought in by the public.

The clinic, however, was allowed to continue treating animals that it rescues and then puts up for adoption, Stir said.

Crystal Luli told the station that they had done "everything legal" that was required to obtain a veterinary business facility license. The license is required when a facility is owned by someone other than a veterinarian.


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