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Owner Of San Antonio Dog Handling School Sentenced For Defrauding GI Bill Program

Samantha Robichaud walks her service dog Zeus in Annette Shelby Park Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, on 12th Street in Tuscaloosa. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]Samantha Robichaud And Zeus
Gary Cosby Jr./USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Co
Samantha Robichaud walks her service dog Zeus in Annette Shelby Park Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, on 12th Street in Tuscaloosa. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]Samantha Robichaud And Zeus

Bradley Croft was found guilty in 2019 on 16 charges related to defrauding the Veterans Affairs GI Bill program of almost $1.5 million.

A federal judge in San Antonio Friday sentenced Bradley Croft, owner of Universal K-9, Inc., to nearly 10 years in prison. He was charged with scheming to defraud the government of $1.5 million in Veterans Affairs GI Bill benefits to train service dogs and their handlers.

Universal K-9, Inc. “solely exists to save dogs to train for law enforcement and veterans,” per its website. The organization bills itself as a nonprofit that trains rescue dogs for personal protection, narcotics/explosives detection and arson investigation.

The FBI shut down the training school in August 2018 and apprehended Croft. Several veterans struggling to get back on their feet were also caught in that raid, which derailed their career plans.

After a bench trial in 2019, a judge found Croft guilty on eight counts of wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft, two counts of money laundering and two counts of making a false tax return.

Testimony during trial revealed that, beginning in 2015, Croft provided false information in applications to the Texas Veterans Commission, including instructors’ names, certifications and training documents to receive GI Bill education benefit payments.

According to a release from the Department of Justice, Croft and others solicited veterans as students, saying they could use their GI Bill benefits to pay for dog handler’s courses that cost between $6,500 and $12,000. During the scheme, Universal K-9 filed about 185 fraudulent claims connected to the education of about 132 veterans.

Croft has maintained his innocence throughout, even going so far as to request a pardon from former President Donald Trump in July 2020.

“My business saved dogs that would have been euthanized, trained them to detect drugs, and donated them to police departments across the country. At 6 AM on August 2018, over 50 FBI agents raided my business. They pulled me and my daughter out at gunpoint,” Croft explained in a statement on his website.

He wrote that, in 2013, veterans “began learning about attending Croft’s school using GI Bill benefits.” To support their efforts, Croft said, he “applied to become a VA-approved school, which required at least one qualified instructor. Croft provided four instructor names he hoped to use as the business grew, which led to the government’s case.”

The San Antonio Express-News reported at the time that those instructors never gave Croft permission to use their names for Universal K-9’s VA application. One instructor who was cited had been dead for two years.

Croft has since forfeited most of his property, the funds in his bank accounts, and 26 dogs. In addition to prison time, he must also pay restitution.

“Defrauding programs such as the GI Bill, is particularly disturbing and a slap in the face to all the U.S. Service men and women who count on these programs to help improve their futures. Today’s stiff sentencing of Bradley Lane Croft, owner of Universal K-9, Inc., shows once again how harmful ‘white collar’ fraud can be,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Rick Goss, of the Houston Field Office.

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Carson Frame was Texas Public Radio's military and veterans' issues reporter from July 2017 until March 2024.