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A federal judge on Tuesday granted bond to the operator of a San Antonio dog training business who is charged with defrauding the GI Bill program out of more than $1.2 million.
After hearing nearly a full day of government testimony alleging Bradley Lane Croft, 46, is violent, vindictive and volatile, much of which received objections from his defense, U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Farrer said federal law allowed him to set bail with restrictions aimed at protecting the safety of the public. Farrer was not swayed by the prosecutionâ€™s claim that Croft is a flight risk.
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The judge set a $50,000 unsecured bond, meaning Croft does not put down any money, and ordered Croft to the custody of one of Croftâ€™s friends, a San Antonio businessman who also must serve as a surety who would be on the hook for the money should Croft skip bail or violates conditions of release. Farrer also ordered Croft to serve house arrest, wear an ankle monitor, not have contact with witnesses in the case, get screened for drug use and avoid alcohol use, The businessman was instructed to get rid of guns he has in the house where Croft is going to stay.
Croft could be out of jail as early as Wednesday.
According to Tuesdayâ€™s testimony, Croft operated Universal K9, but allegedly put it under the name of a combat-wounded veteran who lives in Virginia. The business on the Northwest Side was raided Aug. 8 by the FBI, IRS and investigators with the Department of Veterans Affairs. They shut the training school down, and the cityâ€™s Animal Care Services took 26 of 31 dogs on the site into custody amid the federal investigation.
Croft was indicted last week on federal charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.
The indictment alleges Croft used the personal information of four dog trainers, without their permission, in applying to the Texas Veterans Commission so his company could recruit veterans to his dog-handlerâ€™s school. The veterans would pay for the school using their GI Bill benefits.
Sharleigh Drake, a Texas Department of Public Safety criminal investigator who is assigned to an FBI white-collar crime task force, testified that one of the four trainers died two years before Croft submitted his paperwork to the veterans commission.
Drake also testified about shortfalls in the training program, which she said could affect police departments around the country. Croft had been providing certain dogs, some of them shelter rescues, to police departments under a program that had gained Universal K9 accolades, along with regional and national news coverage.
â€śHe had no formal certification to train dogs and neither did his trainers,â€ť Drake testified.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Surovic and Drake, Croftâ€™s alleged fraud and shortcomings in training undermines the credibility and reliability of the dogs for the departments that obtained them. Some police departments bought the dogs using grants provided by the Department of Homeland Security, according to testimony.
The hearing turned largely into a back and forth surrounding Croftâ€™s history, going back to 1990. Government witnesses, court records and police reports showed Croft shooting at the feet of an ex-girlfriend in 1995 and fighting with police who responded. Other reported incidents included him allegedly beating his ex-wife in front of their then-7-year-old daughter in 2007, nearly punching his wifeâ€™s divorce lawyer after bankruptcy proceedings in 2011, and retaliating against a business owner by sending her credit report to her clients in an attempt to discredit her.
An IRS agent testified that Croft is also under investigation for tax fraud. In statements to a court pretrial services officer, Croft claimed to have an income of $45,000 a month, which doesnâ€™t jibe with his tax returns for the past two years, when Croft claimed he only made $2,000 each of those years, the agent testified.
Drake also testified that certain people the feds wanted to call as witnesses refused to testify at Croftâ€™s hearing because they are afraid of him. Among those who feared him was a police officer, Drake said.
Those who did testify included his ex-wifeâ€™s divorce lawyer, Misty Murphy, and homeowners association management company owner Barbara Lowry. Both testified they had to have bailiffs watch over them during bankruptcy proceedings involving Croft and that they fear Croft so much that they ended up getting guns for protection.
Murphy also testified that Croft treated his ex-wife â€śhorribly,â€ť choked her, pulled her by the hair, and even yanked her by an earring so hard that it damaged her ear and she had to have it surgically repaired. His ex-wife backed out after agreeing to testify, Drake said.
Surovic played a videotaped deposition Croft gave during his bankruptcy, which he allegedly filed to thwart any attempt by Lowry to collect judgments from Croft that the courts had awarded her.
In the 2011 video, Croft was defiant. He claimed he had gone to school â€śall overâ€ť and â€śgot kicked out of every grade for fighting.â€ť When asked about his parents, he said: â€śI donâ€™t have a family.â€ť He claimed to have been adopted by a doctor and his wife, but then said â€śtheyâ€™re dead to me.â€ť He also admitted to using steroids in the past, downplayed his run-ins with the law, and said they were mostly â€śfor beating people up.â€ť
Tom McHugh, Croftâ€™s lead lawyer, objected to the mentioning of much of that testimony, arguing that it was old and that Croft only has one conviction. McHugh countered that despite what the court heard, the allegations of violence came during contentious proceedings, and that the bankruptcy was not relevant to claims that Croft is a danger.
Croftâ€™s sole witness, Rachel McCabe, a single mother who befriended Croft, said Croft was â€śthe total oppositeâ€ť of what she heard in court.
â€śThe Brad I know is a very gentle man,â€ť she said, adding that he was nurturing to his teen daughter and a good role model.
Asked by McHugh if she ever saw â€śthis streak of ugliness (in Croft) youâ€™ve seen in court,â€ť McCabe answered: â€śNever, not once.â€ť
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @gmaninfedland