The criminal investigation of former Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary director Kay-Lynette Roca will take eight to 12 months, police said.
They cited the large amount of evidence from computer and financial records and the need to be thorough and correct.
Police raided Roca’s Tequesta home on Feb. 20, a month after her firing by a three-member board after 28 years running the nonprofit animal hospital and no-kill shelter.
A search warrant said police suspect Roca in a “scheme to defraud” of more than $50,000, a first-degree felony. The shelter had revenues as high as $3.9 million in 2010, including $1.8 million in contributions and $300,000 from fundraising events. The money coming in dropped to $2.5 million in 2011.
Roca denied using Safe Harbor for personal gain. Her lawyer, Mitch Beers, said the department’s failure to charge his client after nearly two months indicates it is on a fishing expedition.
“If they would find something, it would stick out like a sore thumb right away, wouldn’t it?” Beers asked. “If they have to examine it that closely, then maybe there’s nothing to find.”
Jupiter police spokesman Sgt. Scott Pascarella said the department is not fishing but rather poring through financial records to be thorough.
“I’m sure it may not sound like something she (Roca) wants to acknowledge at this point,” Pascarella said. “But at the end, she will be relieved to know the Jupiter Police Department was doing its due diligence.”
As a charitable organization, Safe Harbor operates under federal Internal Revenue Service laws and and the IRS occasionally assists in investigation of this kind. However, Pascarella said no other agencies are involved.
Police began the investigation after a Jan. 23 call from a Safe Harbor employee.
As The Post reported in February, Roca ran afoul of a new board made up of current or former Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office employees.
Carol Verdigi, the sheriff’s special events director, had been chairwoman of Safe Harbor’s board for about eight months when she and Cassie Kovacs, a detective, and Diana Nelson, a retired sheriff’s employee, voted Jan. 16 to fire Roca.
Last year, the board had given Roca a pay raise from about $90,000 a year to $125,000 and a $50,000 allowance for a new vehicle. After the firing, Verdigi took Roca’s job as executive director at $45 an hour and the keys to a $59,000 Toyota Sequoia.
As part of its internal investigation, Safe Harbor this month asked Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control for records since 1990 referencing euthanasia, Safe Harbor or Roca. Animal Care Director Dianne Sauve said Safe Harbor did not send unwanted animals to the county to be euthanized but all shelters turn in dangerous dogs at times.
Meanwhile, police refuse to provide any details of their investigation. In a search warrant filed with the county clerk, police get permission from Circuit Judge Jack Cox to keep from public review the probable-cause affidavit that the judge relied upon to allow the search of Roca’s home.
During the search, police seized computers, cell phones and financial records.