BY THE MARYSVILLE JOURNAL-TRIBUNE STAFF
MARYSVILLE — The former chief humane agent for the Union County Humane Society could now be facing more than eight decades in prison for allegedly killing dogs and stealing from their owners.
A Union County grand jury has indicted Steffen Evan Baldwin, who also previously served as a board member for the Humane Society Serving Logan County and a former director for the Top of Ohio Pet Shelter, which closed in 2016 due to financial constraints.
Baldwin, also known as Steffen Finkelstein, 39, of 32035 Mountain Shadow Road, Acton, Calif., is charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, bribery, 15 counts of telecommunications fraud, 13 cases of cruelty to animals, six counts of tampering with records, two counts of grand theft, two counts of falsification, and one count each of grand theft of a firearm and impersonation of a peace officer.
Included in the court documents is the allegation that Baldwin “did negligently, needlessly kill” at least eight dogs.
“I am not sure we are ever going to know the total number of animals he killed,” said Union County Prosecutor Dave Phillips. “I certainly think the total exceeds the number of indictments.”
Baldwin served as director of the Union County Humane Society, helped to found the Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio (ACT Ohio), and co-founded the Ohioans Against Breed Discrimination, a Political Action Committee.
The Union County prosecutor said investigators began looking into Baldwin.
“Shortly thereafter, he left the state and went to California,” Phillips said.
In California, Baldwin started Save Them Dog Training, which focused on reactive dogs with bite histories. He also helped found Underdog Alliance to advocated for dogs with severe behavioral problems.
Phillips said the defendant would allegedly tell people he was taking dogs in to rescue or adopt them.
“Then he would raise money for these dogs —for their care, for their adoption, for their training — but had allegedly euthanized them,” Phillips said.
He said Baldwin had, “a pattern of lying to people to raise money.”
The indictments indicate Baldwin took funds from a variety of animal shelters, organizations and individuals throughout the state and nation.
“The allegations indicate the money he raised for the animals, even after they were euthanized, were used for his personal expenses,” Phillips said, listing gifts for his girlfriend as well as funds spent at strip clubs.
The indictments also allege Baldwin lied on his resume to get his position in Union County and that he lied on court documents, saying he was bit by an aggressive dog.
In addition, the indictment includes the allegation that he stole a handgun from an animal rescue task force.
Local investigators worked with police in California, Phillips explained. When it was time to serve the indictment and arrest Baldwin, police in California invited Baldwin to conduct an animal training for the department. When Baldwin arrived, U.S. Marshals arrested him.
Baldwin is currently lodged in a Los Angeles County jail and has been denied bail. He has said he will not fight his extradition to Ohio.
If convicted on all counts, Baldwin could face more than 81 years in prison.
One of the euthanized dogs named in the indictments is Remington, also known as Remi.
Remington’s former owner has been vocal on social media about her anger toward Baldwin.
The woman said she trusted Baldwin and “when Remi was sent there, because Steffen said he would have his Dangerous Dog designation removed, I sent part of myself to him.”
She said she and her husband paid Baldwin $1,000 to work with Remi, starting in September 2016. She said Baldwin promised to rehabilitate the dog and find a permanent home for the dog. The woman wrote that based on Baldwin’s connections, she had no reason to doubt him.
According to court documents, Remington was euthanized in December 2016.
“We were led to believe for months that he was alive and well,” Remi’s owner wrote on social media.
In fact, in April 2017, Baldwin bought a dangerous dog license for Remi.
The dog’s owner said she and her husband also paid for medications and a surgery.
When the owner eventually learned that Remi had been euthanized, she said she was told it was because the dog attacked one of Baldwin’s other animals.
The dog’s owner said she and her husband, “knew Remi and we knew the story that Steffen was telling us could not be the truth.”
“We didn’t know the whole truth until much later when the police became involved,” the owner wrote. “It was plain as day that the story that was being told by Steffen Baldwin did not add up. But, Steffen’s network continued to grow and they all chose to ignore Remi’s story and not even attempt to ask questions about what really happened.”
The woman wrote that, “in the end, Steffen Baldwin killed the wrong dog.”