Executive director of the Humane Society of El Paso facing 19 felony charges


    Luke Westerman director of the El Paso Humane Society interviewed by KFOX14 Investigative reporter Genevieve Curtis.

    An arrest warrant was issued for the director of the Humane Society of El Paso.

    Luke Westerman was indicted on Dec. 27, 2018, with theft and securities violations.

    KFOX14 Investigates uncovered Westerman’s financial and legal troubles.

    A grand jury in Ohio indicted him on 19 counts of securities law violations and theft, charges which could land him in prison for years, if convicted. Westerman is from Columbus, Ohio.

    In December, investigative reporter Genevieve Curtis spoke with Westerman about allegations made against him.

    "I could have continued to pursue the business world, and yeah, and there's a financial upside in that. At the end of the day, I have one life to live and I don't want to look back on my life and say, 'Yeah, I made a lot of money,' I want to say, 'I changed a lot of lives for the better, said Westerman.

    He said he left a lucrative job working on Wall Street and heading a venture capital firm to rescue animals.

    Westerman has been in El Paso for a year. During that time, an investigation by KFOX14 revealed years of financial and legal troubles leading to Westerman being stripped of his securities license when he worked on Wall Street.

    Our investigative story also uncovered that Westerman is accused forging client signatures, among other things.

    "Anyone in business long enough is going to have complaints, and that's all they are, complaints. They are non-validated; at no point did anyone question my honor or my ethics, " said Westerman.

    When KFOX14 asked about the allegations he replied, “I don’t see how this helps these animals. I've never had anyone -- no one has ever questioned my honor or my ethics. There is no reason to, my whole life is about serving others.

    Westerman faces felony charges of securities violations and theft. Some of the violations stem from 2013 while others allegedly occurred on Dec. 10, 2018.

    Ohio authorities say Westerman was investigated by the Ohio Department of Commerce. They said some of the charges he is facing include the state's most serious felonies.

    Two of the charges carry a minimum sentence of three to 11 years in prison.

    KFOX14 Investigates asked Westerman if he disclosed the judgements against him and legal issues to the humane society.

    “My board is fully aware. And my board fully understands and supports me and understand a lot of this detail,” said Westerman.

    However, KFOX14 Investigates was able to confirm former board members say this was not the case. In fact, Westerman's financial problems and lack of transparency were factors in three board members resigning more than two months ago, after they say the board as a whole refused to take action.

    Thursday night, new chair for the board of directors, Elke Cumming, told KFOX14 Investigates they are taking action following the criminal charges.

    "The board of directors of the Humane Society of El Paso is aware of the allegations that have recently been brought forth against Mr. Westerman, we cannot publicly comment at this time but, appropriate actions are being taken by the board,” said Cumming.

    In non-profit agencies, the board of directors handles the agencies overall financials, not the executive director.

    Last month, Westerman told KFOx14 Investigates his spotty financial and legal history is a result of political enemies.

    “I’m not afraid to be very vocal against people who have financial interest in harming animals that I’ve made enemies with people, political people. Who have an axe to grind because I've spoken out overtly about their policies that they've done that had a negative impact on animals,” said Westerman.

    Details on the current case against Westerman are not currently available but KFOX14 is working to get them.

    KFOX14 reached out to Westerman about the charges he is facing but he didn’t respond.




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