The owner and comptroller of Saylorsburg's Creature Comforts Veterinary Services have been sentenced on charges of tax evasion, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania stated Monday.
According to a release from the Department of Justice, Dr. Karin Breitlauch, 58, of Saylorsburg, and Linda Breitlauch, 64, of Stroudsburg, were each sentenced on Friday to 12 months plus one day imprisonment by United States District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion for failure to remit payroll taxes from their veterinary business.
Previously, the DOJ indicated that the maximum penalty permitted for this particular crime was a five-year prison sentence and an unspecified fine.
U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus noted that Karin Breitlauch, the veterinarian who owns and operates Creature Comforts, and her sister Linda, who serves as a comptroller for the business, withheld federal income taxes from employees' checks but failed to remit those withholdings to the IRS for tax quarters from 2013 to 2016. In addition, the sisters failed to pay the employer portion of the payroll taxes.
Through referencing the clinic's “Our Vet Team” page on the Creature Comforts website, about 36 employee biographies suggest that those people could have been working at the clinic when the IRS alleges the Breitlauchs failed to turn over the withholdings.
Part of the money withheld included Social Security payments meant for employees, and according to the DOJ, when some of those employees went to collect their Social Security benefits, their earnings while employed at Creature Comforts had not been recorded with the Social Security Administration.
The case was investigated by the IRS, and the sisters were indicted in January 2020. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny P. Roberts served as prosecutor.
The Breitlauchs have been ordered to pay $2,486,495.99 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release following their incarceration. Mannion ordered the pair to surrender themselves to the Bureau of Prisons on July 29, 2022 to begin their sentences.
Creature Comforts has also been subject to allegations of animal abuse by their customers, with Pennsylvania State Police conducting an animal cruelty investigation in 2020.
A private Facebook group, Shut Down Creature Comforts, currently hosts about 4,600 members, and a Change.org petition bearing the same name has collected 6,541 of 7,500 requested signatures after launching last year.
Kilee Correa, listed as the individual who launched the Change.org petition, alleged that Creature Comforts should be shut down for "negligence and malpractice," stating that beloved pets brought to the practice were "mistreated, neglected, and misdiagnosed… (c)ausing pain, suffering, and even death."
Dozens of comments on the petition echo the same accusations, with several noting personal accounts of pets who allegedly were patients at the clinic.
Karin Breitlauch was once heralded as the youngest practicing veterinarian in the country following her graduation from the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1986, according to the Creature Comforts website. In 2009, Breitlauch was named Pennsylvania Veterinarian of the Year by the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association.
This article originally appeared on Pocono Record: Saylorsburg vet owner and operators sentenced for tax evasion