Charges originating out of allegedly killing dogs & defrauding donors could bring Baldwin a maximum of 81 years in prison
MARYSVILLE, Ohio––Pit bull advocate Steffen Baldwin, already facing 42 criminal charges that could potentially bring him 81 years in prison, including 39 felonies and three misdemeanors, was on December 15, 2020 further charged with violating the terms of his bail bond after allegedly testing positive for opiate use.
Natasha K. Mays, director of pretrial services in Union County, Ohio, according to the Marysville Journal Tribune “filed paperwork with the court stating that Baldwin had been arrested and taken to the Tri-County Regional Jail.”
Baldwin, 40, also known as Steffen Finkelstein, “is contesting the results of the test,” the Marysville Journal Tribune continued.
“According to court documents, Baldwin was involved in a car crash in October and was ‘seriously injured,’” he contends, posing for a recent photo that resembles a mug shot in a neck brace.
“Baldwin recently underwent surgery to deal with some of those injuries,” the Marysville Journal Tribune added. “Judge Mark O’Connor said the test results would not be out of line with what would be expected for someone having undergone the procedures. He released Baldwin, but sent the samples for further testing to make some determinations.”
Next court date set for January 8, 2021
The charge that Baldwin had violated bail bond terms came one day before he was due in court for an evidentiary hearing.
Baldwin “contends that some of misdemeanor charges should be dropped because the 24-month statute of limitations has expired,” the Marysville Journal Tribune explained. “Officials have not gotten through the hearing’s first witness. The remainder of the hearing will be held beginning on January 8, 2021.”
Initially arrested on July 23, 2020 in Acton, California, Baldwin was extradited to Ohio on charges centering on killing dogs and financial fraud, detailed at https://www.facebook.com/pawprotectorsrescue/photos/rpp.181324838630169/3089596421136315/?type=3&theater.
A list of 312 evidentiary documents filed in connection with the charges is accessible at orca_share_media1609299233754_6749890213332438012.pdf.
Released after posting 10% of $200,000 bond
Judge O’Connor initially set bail for Baldwin at $200,000, after Union County assistant prosecutor Melissa Chase called Baldwin “a flight risk.”
Judge O’Connor allowed Baldwin to be released from jail after he posted 10% of the bail bond amount, but warned him that either a positive test for any unprescribed drugs or refusing to be tested for drugs or alcohol consumption could result in his bond being revoked.
“According to court documents,” the Marysville Journal Tribune reported, “Baldwin is currently living at the Extended Stay [hotel] of South Dayton.”
Dogs left in California now in Texas
While Baldwin was allegedly compounding his own legal issues in Marysville, Ohio, Final Frontier Rescue Project founder Eileen McFall of Georgetown, Texas, posted to Facebook on December 20, 2020 that she had received the last five of the dogs that Baldwin left behind at his now defunct “rescue center” in Acton, California, when extradited to Ohio.
McFall described the five as “four rescue dogs,” named Max, Chato, Taz, and Banksy, “and one of Steffen’s dogs, Jitterbug.”
Unclear is which Max was transferred to Texas; McFall posted photos of a Max who is a cattle dog mix five times between November 15 and December 20, 2020, and a photo of a ten-year-old Max who is a Lab mix on December 16, 2020.
McFall recently relocated to Texas, she said, after founding and for nine years heading Central California Pets Alive, whose declared purpose is “to educate and advocate for saving every healthy and treatable animal in our region’s animal shelters by fully implementing the No Kill Equation” advanced by No Kill Advocacy Center founder Nathan Winograd.
No IRS Form 990 filings, but Facebook pages
While Central California Pets Alive has a Facebook page, it apparently has never filed IRS Form 990––or at least has not filed under either that name, the name “Indie Institute,” which McFall also uses, or the name of the Final Frontier Rescue Project.
All three entities apparently consist of little more than a Facebook page.
“Over the past few years,” McFall posted to the Facebook page for the Final Frontier Rescue Project, “dozens of individuals and rescues sent dogs to Steffen for training or sanctuary, including us, and Steffen was a founding member of our board of directors.
“When Steffen was arrested this past July,” McFall said, “we didn’t have any dogs there, but we were worried about what would happen to those dogs who were there. Over the next six weeks, Steffen’s girlfriend Katie struggled to coordinate dogs’ leaving and care for those who remained, and Austin Pets Alive and Dogs Playing for Life,” which had earlier promoted Baldwin, “sent staff to evaluate and place dogs who were not picked up by rescues and individual owners.
“Steffen’s ranch has been sold”
“We voted to help any dogs who remained,” McFall continued, “and we hoped to figure out a way to keep the ranch [Baldwin had purchased] as a rehabilitation center for those dogs who need it most.
“We were not able to organize support for keeping the ranch open as a rehabilitation center,” McFall lamented.
“The big organizations all said no, and so did some people who helped some of these dogs in the past.
“We moved the dogs now, just before the holidays,” McFall finished, “because Steffen’s ranch has been sold and the closing is imminent.”
“Did negligently, needlessly kill’” at least eight dogs, say charges
The Union County Grand Jury in July 2020 indicted Baldwin, for “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,” summarized Marysville Journal-Tribune reporter Mac Cordell.
“Included in the court documents,” Cordell mentioned, “is the allegation that Baldwin ‘did negligently, needlessly kill’ at least eight dogs,” all of them believed to be pit bulls whom Baldwin had contracted to train and rehome.
One of those pit bulls, named in the indictments, was Remi, rehomed to Angelo and Litsa Kargakos, of Hubbard, Ohio, in May 2016, despite having been identified as a “dangerous dog” according to Ohio law by the Trumbull County pound.
After spending four months trying to rehabilitate Remi, Angelo and Litsa Kargakos admitted in Facebook postings, “We gave Steffen $1,000 to polish Remi up and find him his forever home.”
Instead, Remi disappeared. Baldwin in April 2017 claimed via Facebook that Remi had been euthanized after killing another pit bull, named Zack, in a “yard accident.”
Paperwork issued by the Rascal Animal Hospital, of Dublin, Ohio, confirmed that Baldwin brought Remi for euthanasia on December 28, 2016.
“Lying to people to raise money”
This appears to have been a recurring pattern.
Union County prosecutor Dave Phillips testified that Baldwin “would raise money for [such] dogs – for their care, for their adoption, for their training – but allegedly euthanized them,” demonstrating what Phillips called “a pattern of lying to people to raise money. The allegations,” Phillips said, “indicate the money he raised for the animals, even after they were euthanized, were used for his personal expenses,” including gifts for his girlfriend and entertainment at strip clubs.
Detective Jim Conroy of the Campbell Police Department in Mahoning County, Ohio, told Columbus 10TV reporter Brittany Bailey that the initial police report of alleged criminal activity by Baldwin was filed in June 2017.
“From there,” summarized Bailey, “the evidence kept building, eventually leading to dozens of charges tied to the deaths of 18 dogs.”
The Nicaraguan connection
Rising rapidly to prominence after becoming executive director of the Union County Humane Society in August 2008, Baldwin was often featured at public events, in publications, and on the web sites of pro-pit bull organizations, including the Best Friends Animal Society, Los Angeles Animal Services, and Maddie’s Fund.
While still at the Union County Humane Society, Baldwin in 2011, as “Director and Fund Raising/Grant Writer,” joined attorney Matthew L. Smith in forming the “Nicaraguan International Coalition for Children and the Elderly,” headquartered in Marysville, Ohio.
Still listing Baldwin as “Director and Fund Raising/Grant Writer,” the “Nicaraguan International Coalition for Children and the Elderly” has also never filed IRS Form 990, according to www.Guidestar.org, the organization that posts IRS Form 990 filings for the Internal Revenue Service.
Still raising funds
Clicking the “Financial Data” link at the “Nicaraguan International Coalition for Children and the Elderly” web site produces a message reading “Not Found. The requested URL was not found on this server. Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.”
Yet the “Nicaraguan International Coalition for Children and the Elderly” was still raising funds through Facebook postings as recently as December 19, 2020.
After leaving the Union County Humane Society in 2013, Baldwin with considerable fanfare formed the Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio. The organization fizzled and was stripped of IRS 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit status in 2017 after three consecutive years of not filing annual financial reports.
Baldwin & Jeffrey Luke Westerman
Baldwin and an associate, Jeffery Luke Westerman, meanwhile co-founded the political action committee “Ohioans Against Breed Discrimination” in 2015.
Westerman left Ohio in 2018 to become executive director of the Humane Society of El Paso, Texas, but left that position three days after television station KFOX 14 on January 3, 2019 reported his indictment by an Ohio grand jury on 19 felony counts of securities law violations and theft.
Westerman’s trial has reportedly repeatedly been postponed due to complications of court scheduling caused by the international COVID-19 pandemic.
Baldwin established a reputation for himself as a purported expert trainer and handler of pit bulls despite having apparently been integrally involved in the high-profile failed attempted rehabilitation of a pit bull named Bosco by then 61-year-old Best Friends Animal Society employee Jacqueline Bedsaul Johnson in 2017.
According to Johnson in an April 4, 2017 posting to Facebook, Bosco “was found running at large in November  and taken to Animal Control,” apparently in Toledo, Ohio.
“Lucas County Pit Crew pulled him,” Johnson continued, “and he went into a foster home. He was adopted days before Christmas,” but “bit his adopter,” and was returned to a foster home after completing quarantine.
“Ohio declared him a dangerous dog because of the bite,” Johnson admitted, “so he was moved to an out of state foster home. He was driven across the country to our home in Arizona.”
On December 4, 2017, Bosco turned on Johnson.
“Both her arms were broken, [her] wrist [was] shattered and [she] nearly lost a finger,” which was reattached, Johnson’s daughter Adria recounted in a GoFundMe appeal on her mother’s behalf.
Three more attacks
Sharon Logan of Paw Protectors Rescue, in Orange County, California, on February 6, 2019 posted a list of three incidents allegedly involving Baldwin and pit bulls he trained, distilled from information that Baldwin himself posted to social media.
In one of those incidents, a trainer visiting Baldwin from England was allegedly mauled by a pit bull named Goober, “had to be hospitalized for three days, suffered a broken leg and needs extensive plastic surgery.”
Also, Baldwin allegedly “rescued” a pit bull named Travis from Orange County Animal Services, who had bitten two other dogs and two humans, and was found dead three weeks later; and a pit bull brought to Baldwin for training by a rescue in Long Beach, California, “lost his tail in a fight with another while in Steffen’s care.”
Long record of credibility issues
Baldwin appears to have had credibility issues long before having become involved in nonprofit work and dog rehabilitation.
Baldwin claims on LinkedIn, for instance, to have attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from 1999 to 2001, earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
The dates of when Baldwin claims to have attended West Point conflict, however, with those of his active duty stint in the U.S. Army, from July 1998 to December 2001.
After discharge, according to the LinkedIn entry, Baldwin held a series of YMCA jobs from June 2002 through August 2005, became development manager for a drug treatment facility, and then was executive director for the Victor Valley Community Hospital Foundation, identified by the web site Scorched Earth as “a community hospital [in southern California] that went bankrupt in 2010.”