Ex-West Haven Animal Control Officer Stole Cash Meant for Shelter: Police

A former West Haven animal control officer has been arrested, accused of stealing donations meant to cover medical care for animals at the shelter, according to police.

James Vitelli, 46, of Northford, was a founding member and treasurer of the nonprofit organization Wags & Whiskers, which collects funds by redeeming bottles and cans that the public donated to the Collis Street Shelter, then using the cash to pay for veterinary care, police said.

Vitelli is accused of redeeming cans and bottles that members of the public donated to the shelter and pocketing the money. Police said Vitelli is also accused of damaging a storage area where the redeemable items were kept.

Hi arrest came after a months-long investigation launched in January. Police said Vitelli had been employed as an animal control officer since 1997.

Ian Robertson, president of Wags & Whiskers, called Vitelli's arrest "an unfortunate event."

"Mr. Vitelli resigned as treasurer of Wags & Whiskers, but up until the end of 2015 he was an active member who was entrusted [to] redeem bottles and cans for the organization," Robertson said in a statement Monday evening.

"Once the investigation of Mr. Vitelli was underway, Wags & Whiskers put other resources in place to make sure the money is accounted for and is put to good use for its original intention of helping support the West Haven Animal Shelter," Robertson added.

He was arrested and charged with second-degree larceny and third-degree criminal mischief. He is no longer employed by the city of West Haven, according to police.

It's not clear if Vitelli has an attorney.

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