SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- A San Francisco non-profit foundation that provides service dogs to veterans is facing allegations of fraud. The organization's founder is accused of taking advantage of dog lovers and their desire to help veterans.
Some volunteers who partnered with the organization to care for the dogs said they're cheated out of thousands of dollars and the dogs aren't properly trained.
"What he's doing is sick and it's wrong," said San Francisco resident Lysee Kaye.
Kaye was referring to Jacob Angel, founder of Beyond a Buddy Foundation.
During the pandemic, Kaye became a foster parent to a puppy through the non-profit, which claims to train and partner service dogs for veterans dealing with PTSD. As collateral, she agreed to pay a refundable $2,500 deposit while the puppy was under her care. After two dogs she had fostered for two months got very little training, Kaye became suspicious and questioned how they would become service dogs. So last week, she left the program.
"I don't believe they ever go through training to actually become service animals," said Kaye.
Angel wrote a check for $3,050 to return her deposit and reimburse her expenses. But the organization froze the check after Angel handed the check to her. Some other foster parents have gone on social media or told KPIX 5 over the phone complaining of similar issues: lack of dog training and Angel holding on to their $2,500 deposit.
Angel says those allegations are false.
"I am not a con artist or scam artist. There are miscommunications," said Angel.
Angel said a professional trainer trains the puppies.
A recent recipient told KPIX 5 over the phone the service dog she bought from Beyond a Buddy was well-trained.
Also, Angel said he'll refund Kaye and other foster parents once a veterinarian checks on the conditions of the returned puppies.
But a neighbor who frequently runs into Angel and his puppies questioned the well-being of those puppies. Tor Smith said Angel has left the puppies locked up in his car for hours at a time. He showed KPIX 5 a picture of his wife feeding a puppy water through a small crack of a side car window.
"I have a dog. He's like my son," said Smith. "It breaks my heart to see whenever a dog is being neglected like that or potentially abused."
Accusers said those allegations and Angel's prior run-ins with the law show a pattern of deceit.
Angel admitted he made a mistake when he shoplifted and got caught in Daly City in 2013. And he recently pled no contest to a check fraud case in San Mateo County.
"Publicly, it looks terrible. That's the honest truth. It's gonna look bad," said Angel.
But he said he has placed service dogs in homes and helped a lot of veterans. In fact, he said San Francisco Mayor London Breed recognized his hard work by proclaiming August 2, 2018 "Jacob Angel Day."
"We're not a scam. We're trying to make this world a little bit nicer," said Angel.
But it's not just puppy foster parents accusing Angel. The Military Health Project and Foundation that Angel founded and left in 2019 also accused him of embezzling more than $100,000 from the non-profit and board members like Jason Dutton.
"It hurts every single day knowing that I trusted someone with parts of my life, with trust of what I want to do with the (military) community. And this happened," said Dutton. "This is a master at his craft. And please be careful, please be careful with this gentleman."
Spencer Dayton is now the president of the Military Health Project and Foundation, which also provides service dogs to veterans. He said the veterans who paid Angel for dogs either never got one or received an untrained dog. He said after Angel got kicked out of the Military Health Project and Foundation, Angel started Beyond a Buddy Foundation.
"It's disheartening. It makes me angry and it hurts my soul," said Dayton. "We're here to help people."
Dayton and other accusers have filed police reports and showed the reports to KPIX 5. But so far, they said the police have done nothing.
"Have any charges been filed? No. Have I been contacted by law enforcement with regard to the issue that happened with my prior organization? No," said Angel.
The accusers said they want to go public to warn others about Beyond a Buddy Foundation.
Angel said his organization charges veterans for the service dogs based on their incomes. He said the prices of the four dogs that have been sold so far to the recipients range from $1,800 to $4,000.
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