Former local animal advocate flunks drug test, violates bond


The former chief agent for the Union County Humane Society charged with killing dogs has been released after being arrested on a bond violation earlier this week.

Steffen Baldwin, also known as Steffen Finkelstein, 40, was charged Tuesday with violating the terms of his bond after he allegedly tested positive for opiates.
In June, Baldwin was 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.
Tuesday, Natasha K. Mays, director of pretrial services, filed paperwork with the court stating that Baldwin had been arrested and taken to the Tri-County Regional Jail after he tested positive for opiates.
Baldwin is contesting the results of the test. According to court documents, Baldwin was involved in a car crash in October and was “seriously injured.” Baldwin recently underwent surgery to deal with some of those injuries. 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.
Baldwin was already scheduled to appear in court Wednesday on an evidentiary hearing. He contends that some of misdemeanor charges should be dropped because the 24-month statute of limitations has expired. Officials have not gotten through the hearing’s first witness. The remainder of the hearing will be held beginning Jan. 8.
When Baldwin was arraigned in August, O’Connor set bond at $200,000, the amount requested by Assistant Union County Prosecutor Melissa Chase. She called Baldwin, “a flight risk.”
Eventually, defense attorney Michael Streng asked the judge to readdress bond. O’Connor ruled to allow Baldwin to be released if he paid 10% of the bond, which he did.
According to court documents, Baldwin is currently living at the Extended Stay of South Dayton.
As part of the bond agreement, Baldwin was told that a positive test for any unprescribed drugs could result in his bond being revoked. Additionally, refusing to test for drugs or alcohol would also cause his bond to be revoked.
O’Connor was assigned to the case because Streng belongs to the same law firm where Common Pleas Court Judge Don Fraser was a partner.
If convicted on all counts, Baldwin could face more than 81 years in prison.
Baldwin was the Chief Humane Agent for the Union County Humane Society. He founded the Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio (ACT Ohio), and co-founded the Ohioans Against Breed Discrimination, a Political Action Committee.
In California, Baldwin started Save Them Dog Training, which focused on reactive dogs with bite histories. He also helped found Underdog Alliance to advocate for dogs with severe behavioral problems.
Court documents allege Baldwin would tell people he was taking dogs in to rescue, train or adopt them. He would allegedly raise money for the care of the dog, but rather than help them he would have them often have them euthanized, according to court documents.
The indictments indicate Baldwin took funds from a variety of animal shelters, organizations and individuals throughout the state and nation.
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.
Also included in the indictment is the allegation that he stole a handgun from an animal rescue task force.

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