He made a big splash in Central Ohio fighting for animal rights.

Tonight, he’s fighting to stay out of prison.

Luke Westerman is charged with 19 counts of felony fraud and theft. The former Columbus man is accused of stealing more than $700,000 over the past eight years from people who invested in his now-defunct company: Solomon Global Holdings.

Westerman, 38, declined to be interviewed for this report.

Instead, he sent NBC 4 Investigator Tom Sussi this Facebook message. “I would never do anything unethical,” he wrote. “It is completely against every single fiber of my being and everything I stand for.”

In November of 2017, Westerman left Columbus for El Paso, Texas, to run the city’s humane society. In an interview with El Paso Magazine just two months ago, he called it “my dream job.” 

Yesterday, Westerman lost his dream job.

The organization’s Board of Directors fired him as executive director.

“The allegations against Mr. Westerman have shaken the community’s trust in the organization,” the Board of Directors wrote in a statement. 

Westerman is free on a $50,000 bond. No pre-trial or trial date has been set.