One of the founders of Woofin Palooza, which advertised itself as a pet rescue and adoption organization in Oregon’s Multnomah and Columbia counties, pleaded guilty Friday to scamming more than 280 customers by concealing that the animals up for adoption had medical and behavioral problems.
Tori Lynn Head, 26, pleaded guilty to two charges, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and dispensing animal drugs without proper labeling.
Head, who remains out of custody, will be sentenced Nov. 18 before U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez in federal court in Portland.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight said Woofin Palooza also collected more than $82,000 in “sham” adoption fees, claiming the fee was necessary to obtain the pets from boarders.
In fact, many of the animals were sick or suffered from behavioral issues and required additional veterinary care costing more than $142,580, Knight said.
Head and others also required customers to pay more than $23,000 in spaying or neutering fees, claiming the business would reimburse those adopting the pets once the procedures were completed. Yet those reimbursements didn’t occur, according Knight.
Further, Head and others ordered drugs from Florida and Nebraska using fraudulent prescriptions and obtained drugs that were prescribed to pets in Merced, California, according to the government.
Head and others mixed the drugs in bottles and didn’t disclose to customers what was really inside, mislabeling the bottles, Knight said.
The fraud occurred from December 2019 through January 2021, authorities said.
Head also faces a separate criminal indictment in Multnomah County Circuit Court with more than 200 animal abuse and neglect charges, alleging Woofin Palooza inappropriately housed and confined more than 100 dogs and cats. The indictment in state court was filed in May against Head and fellow owner Samantha Miller, 52. Both have pleaded not guilty to the state charges.
Multnomah County Animal Services launched an investigation in the summer of 2020 after receiving complaints about the Portland business, which was located in the 2300 block of Northeast 82nd Avenue. The agency did an inspection on Aug. 1, 2020, and found dogs crowded together in dirty kennels and unsanitary conditions.
Miller has a federal civil suit pending against the county, arguing that the investigation of Woofin Palooza was motivated by a county animus toward the owners and that the business owners had committed no crimes.
— Maxine Bernstein
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