Brandi Tomko said she isn’t a vet and never tried to play one, despite accusations from a group of grieving pet owners and law enforcement officials.
Tomko, of Medina County, took the stand in her own defense Thursday in an effort to deflect what’s left of the prosecution’s shrinking criminal case.
What started as a 40-count indictment has been reduced to eight counts — four low-level felonies and four misdemeanors.
Where Tomko once faced more than 10 years in prison, she now could avoid incarceration — if she’s convicted of anything at all — because new state sentencing laws suggest probation for those found guilty of low-level felonies.
Common Pleas Judge Paul Gallagher is expected to announce his verdicts on the remaining counts this morning. He heard the case over the past three days without a jury.
Gallagher is considering felony charges of forgery, identity fraud and theft. The misdemeanors are animal cruelty charges stemming from care Tomko is accused of providing to two dogs and a cat.
Prosecutors contend the offenses occurred between February 2010 and April 2011 while Tomko worked as an office manager at C&D Animal Hospital on Brittain Road in East Akron. The facility closed in May 2011.
A confident and defiant Tomko testified for about an hour Thursday morning. She portrayed herself as an overworked, underpaid office manager of a mismanaged, overwhelmed pet clinic that constantly was strapped for cash, riddled with poor record-keeping and always in search of licensed veterinarians.
Under questioning from her attorney, John Greven, Tomko said she did everything at the clinic from scooping litter boxes to wrapping the paws of declawed cats to drawing blood from sick dogs. She said vets sometimes were paid with the day’s take held in the cash registers. Other workers, like herself, got what remained, if anything at all, after food for dozens of sheltered cats and dogs was bought.
Money was so tight during her 10 years at the clinic, she said, that she lost her home in a financial mess.
From the witness stand, Tomko, 36, said she welcomed clients and their pets to the office, but didn’t perform procedures and didn’t claim to be a vet. At times, she would weigh the pets, other times she would assist the vets by drawing blood or collecting stool samples. She did so, she said, under the direction and guidance of a vet.
Many times, she said, the vets wouldn’t or couldn’t talk to clients about their pet’s condition. In the case of Kenny Reymann and his 12-year-old dog, Charlie, she relayed blood test results to him over the phone and news about the dog’s failing kidney after speaking with the office vet.
Reymann previously testified that he believed Tomko was the vet.
“I didn’t diagnose over the phone,” Tomko said. “I didn’t tell him I was a vet. I never told him I was a vet [technician].”
Reymann and pet owner Robert McGee, whose service dog died 10 months after being treated at the clinic, both watched Tomko’s testimony. A victim’s advocate sat near the men to offer them counseling.
Gallagher on Wednesday dismissed charges connected to the death of McGee’s dog because of insufficient evidence.
Under cross-examination, Assistant Prosecutor Greg Peacock questioned Tomko about a credit application in which he said it appears she signed the name of a former supervising veterinarian long after the vet left the clinic.
“I’m not the veterinarian nor did I sign Dr. Fisher’s name,” she said.
Akron police collected examples of Tomko’s handwriting with the intention of having forensic testing performed. The tests never took place.
The animal cruelty charges stem from Tomko’s alleged treatment of Reymann’s dog, the declawing of a cat and the spay procedure of a female dog. The theft counts stem from the payments Reymann made for vet care he doesn’t believe his dog received.