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Attorney: Vet 'duped' public in search for dog

Posted: 7:24 PM, Feb 23, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-24 03:35:08Z

A Vista woman's plea to find her missing service dog is not all that it appears to be, according to the attorney representing the man accused of stealing the German shepherd.

Attorney Alex Ozols told 10News that former Marine Alexandra Melnick didn't tell the whole story about Kai, who she said disappeared from her Vista home around Thanksgiving 2014.

RELATED: Marine tells how group tracked down stolen service dog Kai

Melnick launched a massive search for Kai, claiming he was a registered service dog that helped her cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. Melnick created a "Bring Kai Home" Facebook page, went on TV and handed out thousands of fliers with Kai's picture, hoping for his return.

Kai was found 9 months later in Texas.

However, what was never revealed at that time was who Kai was living with. It was Melnick's ex-father-in-law.

Ozols claims his client, Pablo Cortez, is Melnick's ex-husband. He said the couple paid $700 for the German shepherd and shared a document written by the couple's former landlord stating he gave them permission to move the puppy in.

"Apparently, after their divorce, the dog went missing and it was at my client’s father’s house," admitted Ozols, who said Cortez was deployed.

RELATED: Service dog missing since last November found in Texas

Ozols said he believes Melnick knew where Kai was all along.

"It was a bad divorce," said Ozols. "It was a divorce that went wrong. She wanted custody of this dog. He had the dog and she would do anything she could to get the dog back, which means also not telling people about the background of the dog."

Ozols added, "When she told this story, I feel like she was duping everyone. I feel that it was an untrue story. The media came out and the media listened to every single thing she said, and she was pretending that she didn’t know whose dog it was or what happened to the dog."

Ozols' client is charged with receiving stolen property and grand theft.

10News contacted Melnick about Ozols' claims, and she said he is "grasping at straws" to help his client.

Melnick said although she and Cortez were once a couple, Kai was always hers. She claims she alone paid for him, and after her divorce, Kai stayed with her.

"It was always my dog," she said.

RELATED: Search for veteran's service dog intensifies in Vista and Oceanside

Melnick said she now believes Kai was with Cortez when he was stationed at Twentynine Palms. When she contacted him there, he claimed he didn't have Kai.

Melnick believes Cortez took Kai to his father's home in Texas during his most recent deployment. Cortez is now stationed at Camp Pendleton.

"I have been completely honest," Melnick said.

She said the truth will come out when the case goes to court.