The trial of a Medina County woman accused of posing as a veterinarian and causing the death of an Akron man’s service dog opened Tuesday with prosecutors calling her “a con artist.”
Brandi A. Tomko, 36, waived her right to a jury trial. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Paul J. Gallagher is hearing her case.
Minutes into opening statements, Summit Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Peacock expanded on his “con artist” allegation. He told Gallagher the state would prove that numerous pet owners took their animals to Tomko and that many of those pets left the clinic where she worked “maimed and dying.”
Peacock said the alleged offenses occurred at C&D Animal Hospital on Brittain Road in Akron from March to June in 2011 — after the clinic’s licensed vet, Melissa M. Fisher, already had left as conditions “deteriorated.”
Tomko, at that point, was presenting herself, illegally, as a veterinarian or veterinary technician and, furthermore, had forged Fisher’s signature on clinic medical records, Peacock said.
“We have prescriptions that have her name on them that she was giving to people,” the prosecutor said.
Fisher testified in the afternoon. She told Gallagher that her last day at C&D, formerly known as the Precious Lives treatment center, was Feb. 23, 2011, after never being paid what she was promised as a licensed vet.
The term she used for the deteriorating conditions there was “circling the drain.”
Tomko’s attorney, John Greven of Akron, said in a Beacon Journal interview that all but 13 charges from the original 40-count indictment of Tomko were dismissed before trial by motion of the prosecution.
And at one point during questioning of a prosecution witness, Greven raised an objection and stressed to Gallagher that all drug-related charges previously filed against Tomko also have been dismissed by prosecution motion.
Greven said during a break in the proceedings that Tomko has not decided if she will take the stand.
Tomko is facing eight misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, one felony count of assaulting or harassing a service dog, two felony counts of theft and additional felony counts of forgery and identity fraud.
In Greven’s brief opening statement, he told the court the prosecution will not be able to prove Tomko hurt any animals brought to the clinic.
“In fact, when you hear these stories,” Greven told the judge, “you will not even find probable cause for some of these charges.”
Greven said Tomko tried to help people who brought their pets to the clinic after the original owner essentially dropped off the keys one day, saying: “I’m out of here.”
“I don’t mean to be smug,” Greven said in his opening, “but all dogs die. Marley died. Old Yeller died. It’s the way it always is. And when you hear from some of these people, you’re going to understand that there is no way they will be able to tie in what Brandi Tomko did to any of these animals.”
Pet owner Connie Sky of Cuyahoga Falls, the first prosecution witness, said she adopted a 4-month-old black cat at C&D, naming it Hudson, and paid for a declawing.
The procedure caused extreme bleeding in a front paw, she said, and an infection developed. Sky went on to say, however, she never saw the procedure and didn’t know whether Tomko performed it.
Hudson survived and is alive today, she said.
Another witness, Michael T. Stone, a firefighter and paramedic from Massillon, said he took his family’s cat, Tigger, to C&D for a declawing and neutering. After first being told the procedure went well and Tigger was doing fine, Stone said he learned hours later that the cat did not survive.
But under Greven’s cross-examination, Stone told the court he never learned what caused Tigger’s death nor did he know if Tomko performed either procedure.
The trial is scheduled to continue today. Tomko is free on bond.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or email@example.com.