KFOX14 Investigates: Some say Westerman should have never been hired at Humane Society
EL PASO, Texas (KFOX14) —
The Humane Society of El Paso is looking for a new top dog.
On Tuesday, the organization fired its embattled executive director, Luke Westerman. Westerman faces criminal charges in Ohio and was booked into jail on Monday.
But perhaps, he never should have been hired to begin with.
KFOX14 Investigates spent months digging into Westerman’s history and sat down with him for an interview.
It is clear, he is not who he appears to be.
He is accused of swindling $700,000 from people in Ohio. It also appears he also misrepresented who he was to the city of El Paso and the Humane Society.
“This has been the best year of my life, I have never been more fulfilled,” said Westerman.
Westerman described his past year as executive director of HESP, when KFOX14 Investigates met with him in December.
“I didn’t get to do this when I was working on Wall Street, how cool is this?” he said, petting a puppy.
It's a tale Westerman likes to tell, about his time as a big Wall Street broker.
But KFOX14 Investigates found it to be a brief stint that included changing employers three different times in just two years.
Those two years were littered with allegations of misconduct before his broker's license was ultimately suspended.
“The outcome of the FINRA [Financial Industry Regulatory Authority] investigation was that your license was suspended correct?” KFOX14 chief investigative reporter Genevieve Curtis asked Westerman in Dec.
“It was frozen until my former employer and I come to terms with that upfront bonus I was paid,” said Westerman.
His broker's license was suspended in 2010 after a financial regulatory body known as FINRA found he failed to comply with a settlement agreement.
Ohio court records show a judge ordered him to pay his former employer, Ameriprise, almost $200,000. Money he hasn't paid.
“They think they are entitled to that but I disagree,” said Westerman.
“The courts have ruled they are entitled to that though, Luke,” said Curtis.
“The courts have also ruled other things that are dishonorable and unethical,” said Westerman.
Financial investigator Greg Leach worked for Westerman's financial firm in Columbus, Ohio.
KFOX14 Investigates spoke with Leach in Ohio.
“To say the judgement against him is unethical is just an excuse, one of his millions of excuses,” said Leach.
KFOX14 Investigates looked up Westerman's history as a broker with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
His record shows on three separate occasions, clients accused him of forging their signature.
“Clients of yours said that you forged their documents,” said Curtis.
“That's not true,” said Westerman.
“That's what they alleged,” said Curtis.
“That's not what they alleged,” said Westerman.
“It says customer alleges that there were signatures not genuine,” said Curtis.
“It doesn't say I had anything to do with it,” said Westerman.
Even though, the incidents are documented on his broker’s license, which is public record.
Westerman also said he didn’t settle it. He said his employer paid the settlement amounts, around $5,000 each.
The records show the settlements were paid.
Westerman also said the sources KFOX14 Investigates used were not credible.
“FINRA is a credible organization, the SEC is a credible organization,” said Curtis.
"FINRA or SEC have never ever made any insinuation that I have ever done anything unethical.
Three Humane Society board members resigned in November after discovering Westerman was not who he claimed to be.
In a resignation letter, one board member said the organization should have conducted a full background check.
The same board member also said, a full background check would have shown that Westerman did not meet the minimum qualifications for the position, including the fact that he doesn't have a bachelor's degree.
It also appears Westerman claimed to have run the Westerman Family Foundation, but no records exist to indicate the foundation is registered with the IRS or Ohio Secretary of State.
“This information would have been essential in making an informed decision on whether he met the minimum job requirements," the letter states.
“I do not believe the board can confirm that he meets the requirement of a minimum of five years experience in a leadership role in an organization with an annual budget of $2.5 million or more nor the minimum of five years of financial management experience,” added the former member.
A search of county records in Ohio shows numerous pending judgments against Westerman including tax liens from the state, garnishment orders and a judgement against Solomon Global Holdings, his venture capital firm, for breach of contract.
“A whole court docket of information, that would scream red flags, red flags,"
Leach said Westerman never paid the employees of Solomon Global Holdings.
KFOX14 Investigates asked Westerman if there were financial issues at the firm.
“No not to my knowledge,” said Westerman.
“Nobody got paid, even the CFO,” said Leach.
Westerman denied leaving Columbus without paying employees.
“Oh no, hmm mm, no, no,” said Westerman.
His financial firm appears to be at the center of his current criminal charges.
“This is sad, this is yesterday's news,” said Westerman.
“I think you can understand why we have to ask you these questions though,” said Curtis.
“I do, I understand asking,” said Westerman.
While Westerman believes his past is yesterday’s news, he has now been indicted on 19 felony charges, showing sometimes the past can be very much part of the present.
“He has a big bark, but no bite,” said Leach.
Westerman nor his attorney have responded to KFOX14 since he was indicted and arrested.
Wednesday evening he posted on Facebook, thanking his supporters, adding that "this too shall pass" and "good will prevail."
In the comment section, he also told people he is currently facing "false accusations."