Crime: Feds rest case in fraud trial of operator of San Antonio dog training school - - PressFrom - US
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Crime Feds rest case in fraud trial of operator of San Antonio dog training school

00:10  17 october  2019
00:10  17 october  2019 Source:   expressnews.com

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A handler moves a dog to an Animal Care Services transportation vehicle Wednesday, Aug. A principal operator of a canine training business in San Antonio swindled about .26 million from the GI Croft is charged with eight counts of wire fraud , four counts of aggravated identity theft and two

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Government prosecutors rested their case Wednesday against the operator of a now shuttered dog training school charged with bilking the GI Bill program out of $1.2 million.

a man wearing a white shirt: Bradley Lane Croft enters the San Antonio Federal Courthouse for a pretrial hearing on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. Lane Croft is a former operator of Universal K9, a dog training school marketed to veterans in San Antonio, is charged with defrauding the GI Bill program out of more than $1.2 million.© Carlos Javier Sanchez /Contributor

Bradley Lane Croft enters the San Antonio Federal Courthouse for a pretrial hearing on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. Lane Croft is a former operator of Universal K9, a dog training school marketed to veterans in San Antonio, is charged with defrauding the GI Bill program out of more than $1.2 million.

Bradley Croft, 48, ran Universal K9 until it was shut down last year amid a federal investigation launched over claims he committed fraud to get on a state-approved list of schools military veterans could use their GI Bill benefits for. Croft chose to have his trial heard by Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra instead of by a jury.

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A principal operator of a canine training business in San Antonio swindled about .26 million from the GI Bill Croft is charged with eight counts of wire fraud , four counts of aggravated identity theft and two counts of Some of the dogs were used in the training program, which targeted military veterans.

After a week and a half of prosecution testimony, Croft’s lead lawyer, Tom McHugh, moved for acquittal before the defense began calling its witnesses. The lawyer said the government had not proved its case and the charges against Croft should be dismissed.

McHugh said Croft had a real school that trained students on handling working dogs.

“There was no ghost or bogus vets,” McHugh told Ezra. “They were real. There were real working dogs and classes.

“He was trying, as clumsily as he did, to get this thing going,” McHugh said, adding that Croft put the money he received back into the business. “There is no evidence of criminal intent of this defendant.”

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Federal agents have arrested a principal operator of a canine- training operation after he was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury on charges related to fraud and money laundering. Bradley Croft, 46, who has said he was a founder of Universal K9, was arrested moments ago the San Antonio

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Surovic said the evidence and testimony the government submitted was enough to prove its case.

Ezra said that, when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the testimony he heard and evidence he saw could be enough to convict Croft guilty of all crimes he's charged with: 16 counts including wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and filing a false tax return.

But Ezra cautioned that he had not yet heard the defense’s case.

According to testimony, Croft told the Texas Veterans Commission he had certified training instructors teaching his courses so that he could qualify to receive federal GI Bill benefits — the instructors were certified, but they didn’t teach at his school at the time his program was approved and they had not given him permission to use their names. One had been deceased for more than a year.

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His school was about to open in new digs on the Northwest Side when it closed its doors suddenly last year following a high-profile raid by the FBI and other agencies in which most of his dogs — 26 of 31 — were seized as part of the federal investigation. The animals were taken in by San Antonio’s Animal Care Services.

Croft was later indicted by a federal grand jury.

He is accused of laundering $1.2 million on a nearly $500,000 luxury motor home and other personal expenses, including a penile implant. Prosecutors contend he only reported making $2,000 in income on some of his tax returns, when it was clear he made far more than that.

The defense’s first witness, Harlingen Police narcotics investigator Steven Benitez, testified he took a two week dog handler and drug interdiction course at Universal K9 in 2016 and that he was satisfied with the training — though he felt it could have been longer. He was paired with Katniss, a dog Croft rescued from a shelter that now sniffs out narcotics.

“I would say she has been very successful,” Benitez said. “ I’ve had some successes with her.”

Defense testimony continues Wednesday afternoon.

In years past, Croft had been in local and national news for his organization, which donated dogs to several police agencies around the country. He said it was a nonprofit.

Guillermo Contreras covers federal courts in San Antonio and international legal issues. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | [email protected] | Twitter: @gmaninfedland

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