May 16, 2013 | 3 comments | 839 views
Police: Former Rescue Ink member stole checks
Johnny O arrested for allegedly stealing donations from animal rescue group
John Orlandini, a former member of Rescue Ink — the non-profit animal rescue group that operated the Long Beach Animal Shelter — was arrested on May 15 and charged with third-degree grand larceny, after police said he stole over $15,000 from the organization.
Police say that between June 2012 and February 2013, Orlandini, also known as “Johnny O,” cashed 141 donation checks made out to Rescue Ink, and kept the funds for himself.
Rescue Ink is a Queens-based, non-profit animal rescue organization. Its members are a tough, tattooed bunch who were featured on the National Geographic reality series “Rescue Ink: Unleashed,” and the group released a self-titled book in 2009. Rescue Ink has recruited police officers, military personnel and private investigators to look into cases of animal abuse, mainly in the New York area.
“This is devastating to me,” said Joe “Panz” Panzarella, founder of Rescue Ink, who called the situation “incomprehensible.” “We struggle everyday to try and make this shelter run. We fight for pennies to keep this place running.”
In 2011, Rescue Ink was offered a one-year, $15,000 contract with the city to operate the defunct Long Beach Animal Shelter, which had closed in 2007. Orlandini, 49, a longtime Long Beach resident, was largely credited with founding the shelter after he offered to provide Rescue Ink’s services. The city renewed its contract with the organization last year.
According to police, the discrepancy was discovered in March, when a donor to Rescue Ink requested a receipt for a donation, but there was no record of the check being deposited into Rescue Ink’s accounts.
Police said that an investigation revealed that Orlandini had cashed the checks. Det. Lt. Stefan Chernaski said that the investigation is ongoing, and that the Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance to determine if any more donations are unaccounted for.
“Rescue Ink issues acknowledgement letters to all donors for tax purposes,” Chernaski said in a statement. “Anyone who has made a donation to Rescue Ink, but has not received a letter is encouraged to contact the Long Beach Police Detective Division at (516) 705-7320.”