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Animal hospital owner, wife plead not guilty to felony charges

By Meghann M. Cuniff, The Orange County Register
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 09--A suspected financial scandal that authorities allege earned two insurance agents more than $600,000 in illicit profits has led to felony charges against a longtime south Orange County veterinarian and his wife.

Foothill Animal Hospital owner Edward Julian Putnam, 71, and Maxine Johanna Putnam, 68, of San Juan Capistrano spent a night in jail before pleading not guilty last week in Orange County Superior Court to charges that could send them to prison for up to five years if convicted.

Prosecutors requested high bonds, but a judge allowed them to leave jail after their July 3 arraignment without posting bond. They'd been in jail since July 2.

Maxine Putnam, a licensed Realtor, said in a phone interview that she believes the case has been blown out of proportion "but apparently somebody doesn't" in the Orange County District Attorney's Office, and she said she's reluctant to say anything more.

"I would very much like my side of the story told," she said.

The couple is accused with Reuben Banuelos, 63, of Aliso Viejo, of helping agents Tyler Wilkinson, 37, of San Diego and Ian Frisch, 31, of Bonita defraud insurance companies in 2010 by falsifying their applications for life insurance policies.

Prosecutors say Wilkinson and Frisch offered the three free insurance if they paid a first-time premium but would be reimbursed for what they would have paid for a full year of coverage.

Prosecutors say the Putnams and Banuelos didn't indicate in their applications that they were being reimbursed for the premium, and they let the policies lapse after a year without paying anything more while Wilkinson and Frisch in turn collected $600,000 in commission.

Wilkinson and Frisch each are charged with four felony counts of grand theft, with sentencing enhancement allegations for causing more than $100,000 in loss, aggravated white collar crime more than $500,000, and property loss more than $200,000.

They face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

Like the Putnams, Banuelos is charged with a single felony count of grand theft and faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

The five arrests July 2 came after an inquiry by the California Department of Insurance. They are due back in court Sept. 9.

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Ed Putnam, who has an inactive law license with the California State Bar Association, continues to work as a veterinarian in Lake Forest but is taking for the case, a receptionist said. He was unavailable for comment.

Contact the writer: mcuniff@ocregister.com or 949-492-5122. Twitter: @meghanncuniff.

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(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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