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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hugh Sentenced in Federal Wire-tapping Case

Bondsman Richard Hugh, 54, of Sparta, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 18 months in federal prison without parole. Hugh was convicted of intercepting the telephone communications of a Springfield resident without permission. Hugh placed the phone tap on the victim’s telephone line in December 2005 in an attempt to get information that would help him locate Basil Minor, who was a fugitive in a Lawrence County, Mo., circuit court case. Hugh recorded conversations from that telephone from Dec. 13 to 24, 2005, using equipment he purchased at Radio Shack.

Hugh’s bail license expired last September. There are no pending disciplinary actions against him at this time.

US Attorney’s Press Release
Hugh Found Guilty of Wire-tapping
Hugh on Trial

OK-Bondsmen Encounter Gunfire

According to this report from, Oklahoma bondsmen Carole Franklin and David Dunn barely escaped with their lives in a shooting incident near Oklahoma City. Franklin and Dunn approached an apartment to apprehend a bail fugitive. As Dunn prepared to kick in the front door, Franklin observed fugitive Vicki Sanders through a window and saw that she was armed. Franklin yelled to her partner as Sanders turned the gun on Franklin and fired. Franklin threw herself to the ground and escaped injury.

The Oklahoma State Police were summoned. After a six-hour stand-off, Vicki Sanders was killed after a shoot-out with police.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Unsatisfied Judgment List

The bail bond unsatisfied judgment list is compiled by the DIFP and the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator. The following companies appear on the most recent list. The list is distributed to local courts via electronic means.

1) A&J Bail Bonding, LLC, no longer licensed- 6 judgments totaling $7,900
2) L&C Investment Group, president-Douglas Cheatham of Blue Springs, MO, -no longer licensed-4 judgments totaling $103,250
3) Billy Corn Sr, Cassville, MO-1 judgment for $500
4) Sun Surety Insurance Company-1 judgment for $1,500

There are no agents, general agents, or companies reported with pending disciplinary action.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bail Bond Bill Prefiled in Senate

Senator Shoemyer Wants to Abolish the “Lee Clause”

Senator Les Shoemyer-D, Clarence, has prefiled a bail bond bill, SB869, in the Missouri Senate. Shoemyer’s bill introduces no new language and only seeks to repeal five words from the current statutes. Those five words, the Lee Clause, allow felons who have not been convicted within the last 15 years to be eligible for a bail bond license or a general agent’s licence. (See full text below. The bracketed text, “within the last fifteen years,” is to be repealed.)

RSMO 374.755. 1. The department may cause a complaint to be filed with the administrative hearing commission as provided by chapter 621, RSMo, against any holder of any license required by sections 374.695 to 374.775 or any person who has failed to renew or has surrendered his or her license for any one or any combination of the following causes: (2) Final adjudication or a plea of guilty or nolo contendere [within the past fifteen years] in a criminal prosecution under any state or federal law for a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude whether or not a sentence is imposed, prior to issuance of license date;

Virgil Lee Jackson and the bail association lobbied for the Lee Clause when he was a member of the Missouri Professional Bail Bond(ing) Association. Lee wanted the clause adopted because his felony convictions were over 15 years old and he hoped that he would be able to get a general bail bond license after the clause became law. However, shortly after the bill became law, Lee was arrested for conspiring to murder his competitor, Jerry Cox. Lee pleaded guilty last month and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

The Lee Clause was passed in an omnibus bill, SB1122 in 2004. The language was buried in a bill titled “Dentistry.” The bill was sponsored by committee chair Bob Behnen. Behnen inserted the bail language in the bill and accepted campaign contributions from Lee Jackson and the bail association. The Lee Clause became very controversial in the heated 18th District Senate campaign between Senator Shoemyer and former Representative Behnen. Shoemyer ran television commercials criticizing Behnen for sponsoring legislation supporting felons in the bail bond industry. Behnen lost the campaign to Shoemyer.

A spokesperson in Senator Shoemyer’s office said that Senator Shoemyer wants to repeal the felon language from the statutes because he wanted to act upon the issue he criticized his opponent for in the last campaign.

Last session, The Columbia Daily Tribune interviewed Speaker Rod Jetton about felons in the bail bond industry. When asked if felons should be allowed to be licensed as bondsmen, Jetton replied, “I believe I’m going to say no. I think that’s the correct answer – people with felonies shouldn’t have bail bond licenses. And if that comes up – I know that was a little bit of an issue there [in the Behnen-Shoemyer race] – I’m sure Sen. Shoemyer may deal with that. And I would anticipate that would probably get a lot of support.”

The bill is simple and straightforward. In only seeks to repeal the felon language from the law. We’ll see if it gets bogged down in the legislative session or wins support from those claiming they will support corrective language.

More Coverage on Felons in the Industry

Former Bondsman Gets Extensive Press 10/22/2007
Columbia Missourian: Felons Writing Bail 3/30/2007
Tribune Interviews Jetton About Bail Law 1/26/2007
Tribune Looks at Felon Provision 10/29/2006
STL Post Dispatch Series on Legislation and Jackson 10-11/2006
Law and Sausage Chronology of Bail Law Passage 10/3/2006
Joplin Globe Investigates Bail Bond Law 6/14/2006
Globe Investigates Bondsman with Criminal History 6/5/2006
How Felons Become Bondsmen 4/16/2006

Friday, December 7, 2007

FL-Bondsman Assaulted with Vehicle and Gun

According to this report in the The Ledger of Lakeland, FL, bondsman Terry Wells was assaulted with a gun and a vehicle as he tried to take Davis Paul King into custody for failing to appear on a $17,500 bond. Wells received a tip that King was trying to sell a stolen car in the parking lot of a Walgreens store. When Wells arrived, King recognized him and hit Wells’ car numerous times and then pulled a gun from the passenger seat. Wells pushed the gun out of King's hands and secured King on the ground before police arrived.

King was charged with theft grand auto, possession of methamphetamine, possession of oxycodone, possession of a prescription drug without a prescription, battery of a bail bonds personnel and failure of a defendant on bail to appear.

Services Announced for Bondsman

Our condolences to the family of bondsman Joseph C. Eldridge, 37, of Sunrise Beach, who died Dec. 3, 2007, from injuries related to an accidental shooting. He is survived by his wife and two children of the home, as well as extended family.

Mr. Eldridge worked under the authority of Ben Hilton and formerly served in the Navy in Operation Desert Storm.

A memorial service will be at 7 p.m. Monday at Kidwell-Garber Funeral Home in Laurie. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the Joseph C. Eldridge Memorial Fund.

Full obituary can be found here in the Sedalia Democrat

Friday, November 30, 2007

Court Reverses AHC in Christian Case

The Cole County Circuit Court has reversed the decision of the Administrative Hearing Commission in the Donald Christian licensing case, ruling that current statutes could be retrospectively applied in licensing issues.

Christian pleaded guilty in 1998 to possession of a controlled substance and according to the DIFP’s complaint, was sentenced to three years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. In 2005, Christian was issued a bail bond license. In November 2006, the department filed a complaint with the AHC, seeking to discipline Christian’s license because of the conviction. In May, the AHC issued a ruling that the DIFP had no cause to discipline because the statutes currently in effect could not be applied retrospectively to the time Christian pleaded guilty. The DIFP then filed a petition for review in the Cole County Circuit Court. The court said in its ruling that retroactive application of the statutes did not violate any of Christian’s rights and that the licensing agency has a vital interest in safeguarding the public’s health and welfare. In summary, the court said that the Director had established cause to discipline the licensee and ordered the AHC to reverse its findings and make a decision consistent with the court’s judgment.

According to the records, Christian was not present at the AHC hearing or the judicial review proceedings. He was not represented by counsel.

Links to previous posts
DIFP Files for Judicial Review
AHC Rules No Cause to Discipline

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Under investigation: What bail bond agents should know about consumer complaints

Below is a guest commentary by the DIFP Public Information Administrator and the Consumer Affairs Division

It’s difficult to satisfy every customer all of the time. We all run into misunderstandings and conflicts once in a while, but it’s much easier to avoid these situations if we know what may cause them in the first place.

Take your time

In 2006, 122 general bail bond agents and 835 bail bond agents were licensed to do business in the state, and last year alone the department received 77 bail bond related complaints.

Some complaints involve an agent’s handling of an initial bail transaction, misappropriation of bail money or collateral, failure to return bail money or collateral in a timely manner after proceedings have concluded and unlicensed bail bond or fugitive recovery activity. The most common complaint: lack of customer service. Individuals using bail services complain that their agent did not return calls regarding court appearances, explain the terms of their agreement or treat them with respect. Failure to perform these basic services could lead to misunderstandings and prompt consumer complaints to the department. It’s easy for bail bond agents to respond to these misunderstandings by saying more customers should read their contracts rather than point fingers, but it might be more important to reflect on the interactions you have with your customers. It could save both you and the department time and resources.

Be responsive

The Consumer Affairs Division’s mission is to effectively enforce state laws and regulations governing business to protect consumers from unfair and inequitable treatment. To fulfill this objective, Missouri consumers may file a formal complaint against any person or company doing bail bond business in the state. Once the complaint has been filed, we are required by Missouri law to investigate it. Of course, there are often two sides to every story, so in nearly every case we must get the agent’s side. A department investigator will send a letter requesting information from the agent involved. If you receive a letter, its best to follow these procedures:
  • Read the letter thoroughly, follow the instructions and meet the required deadlines.
  • Tell us your story from beginning to end – What happened when you interacted with the complainant?
  • Do you have notes or documents from the interaction?
  • Give us full and complete documentation.

Remember, the quicker we get this information the sooner we are able to mediate or resolve the complaint to uphold both the bail bond agent’s and the department’s reputation.

Monitor the results

Only a small number of complaints result in some administrative enforcement action by the department. These actions can range from cease and desist orders to monetary penalties to consent orders requiring more continuing education to a suspension or revocation of an agent’s license. Most complaints are resolved through mediation by our investigators.

Both investigative and legal actions can be viewed on the department’s Web site under enforcement actions. Investigative actions are updated on a monthly basis and legal actions are posted on a daily basis. Viewing this information can give bail bond agents a better idea of the work the department does to enforce the bail bond laws of this state and protect Missouri consumers.

For more information about the department’s complaint and investigative procedures, please contact the Consumer Insurance Hotline at 1-800-726-7390.

Correction and Apologies

In my article dated November 28th discussing settlement agreements between the DIFP and license holders, I erroneously stated that no action was taken against Cody Ice’s bail bond license. The DIFP did revoke the licenses of both Cody Ice and his company, C&M Bonding, Inc. The Director’s order directing the revocation is found on page 5 of the settlement agreement.

The previous article has been amended to correct the misinformation. This is how bad rumors get started, my apologies.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

DIFP Enters Into Consent Agreements on Unsatisfied Judgments

The DIFP has entered into consent agreements with two bail bond agents in Missouri. A consent order is issued by the director and the parties agree to waive rights to be heard by the Administrative Hearing Commission or any judicial review body.

The Department entered into a consent agreement with Gregory Billingsley, agreeing to issue him a bail bond license. Last year, the DIFP denied Billingsley’s application for licensure, citing that he had failed to satisfy bail bond judgments in 1999, when he previously held a general bail bond license. The Department said that Billingsley failed to meet the qualifications for surety as outlined in Missouri Supreme Court Rule 33.17(f): A person shall not be accepted as a surety on any bail bond unless the person has no outstanding forfeiture or unsatisfied judgment thereon entered upon any bail bond in any court of this state or of the United States. Billingsley appealed to the AHC and no decision has been published at this time. The consent agreement requires that Billingsley dismiss his case before the AHC.

The DIFP also entered into a consent agreement with C&M Bonding, Inc., and Cody Ice. The consent agreement states that C&M is no longer authorized to conduct bail bond business in Missouri. Both C&M and Ice's bail bond licenses were revoked by the director by consent. In the order, the DIFP stated that it attached the $25,000 CD assigned by C&M to satisfy some of the bail bond judgments against C&M in Texas County. C&M had previously appeared on the unsatisfied judgment list for accumulating $114,000 in unsatisfied judgments in Texas County. The Department dismissed its complaint with the AHC against C&M and Cody Ice.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

DIFP Refuses to Issue Bail License

The DIFP has refused to issue a bail bond license to Kevin E. Williams of Nevada, MO. The department’s order states that Williams is disqualified to hold a Missouri bail license because of crimes related to moral turpitude, disregard for orders of the court, and a plea of guilty to a DWI. According to the DIFP’s order, Williams pleaded guilty to misdemeanor 3rd degree assault on his mother, had failed to appear in court resulting in a capias warrant, and had pleaded guilty in 2002 to misdemeanor DWI with accident. The order states that Williams is currently on probation for the assault.

The department reported no felony convictions for Williams. The Director is exercising his discretion in denying Willams’ license under the seldom used “crimes involving moral turpitude” and other language. Willams’ pleaded guilty to assaulting his mother, who suffers from dementia and other health problems. The order also stated that the department need not reach a decision as to whether the DWI would have disqualified Williams, and stated that the totality of the circumstances was reviewed to determine the fitness of the applicant for licensure.

Williams has 30 days to petition the Administrative Hearing Commission to be heard on the DIFP’s decision.

NJ-Fugitive Escapes by Assaulting Bondsman

According to this report in the Gloucester County Times in New Jersey, bail bond client Harold Gotts, 22, escaped while being transported to jail by his bondsman, Antonio Roman. Reportedly, Gotts kicked the car door into Roman as he was trying to remove Gotts from the car at the police station. Roman was pushed to the ground while Gotts, handcuffed in front, tried to escape to a vehicle waiting a few blocks away.

Roman alerted police and a manhunt ensued. Thirty minutes later, Gotts was apprehended still handcuffed. He was charged with simple assault, obstruction, resisting arrest, hindering apprehension and disorderly conduct. Bond was set at $25,000 full cash.

Gotts’ accomplices, his fiancĂ© and two friends, were charged with obstruction, hindering apprehension and disorderly conduct.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

IA-Inmate Conspires to Murder Bondsman

According to several press reports, the Wapello Sheriff’s Department in Ottumwa, IA arrested Marcelino Madueno-Moreno in the solicitation to have his bondsman, a girl-friend, and a corrections officer murdered. Madueno-Moreno posted bond on a gun charge, but later the bonding company revoked his bond and returned him to the Wapello County Jail. Allegedly, he then conspired to have his bondsman and girl-friend murdered. Madueno-Moreno also plotted to have a jail guard murdered in an attempt to escape when he was to be escorted to court. He is currently being held for probation violation, possession of a firearm by a felon, and solicitation to commit murder. His bond is set at $16,000.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jackson Gets 10 Years

Former bail bond agent Virgil Lee Jackson was sentenced to ten years in prison today in US District Court in St. Louis. Jackson pleaded guilty last August to conspiracy to commit murder. The intended victim of the conspiracy was a bail bond company competitor, Gerald Cox of Cox Bail Bonds in St. Charles. Cox was not harmed as federal authorities were alerted to the hit before it transpired. Jackson has been in federal custody since his arrest in October 2005 and will get credit for the two years he has served.

The DIFP filed a disciplinary complaint against Jackson nearly two years ago. The hearing has been postponed pending the conclusion of all criminal charges. Now that Jackson has been sentenced, hopefully the hearing scheduled for December 12th can be heard before the Administrative Hearing Commission.

Accused co-conspirator Glen Dotson is scheduled to go to trial early next year.

Recent Press
US Attorney's Press Release
STL Post Dispatch
First Capitol News-St. Charles
Cape Girardeau KFVS

My previous Posts
Lee Jackson held on federal charges 4/1/2006
Dotson Arrested/New Charges for Jackson 6/2/2006
Dotson/Jackson trial postponed 6/8/2006
Arraignment 6/13/2006
Trial postponed again 10/28/2006
Dotson Freed on Bond 11/15/2006
Jackson Accused of Another Murder Plot 11/22/2006
January Trial Date Postponed 1/22/2007
March Date Postponed 3/19/2007
Jackson Pleads Guilty 8/13/2007
Dotson Faces New charges 8/27/2007

CT: Cop and Bondsmen Plead Guilty to Bribery

A FBI investigation into police corruption in Connecticut has resulted in guilty pleas from a police narcotics officer and three bondsmen. The case resulted in extensive press coverage in the Northeast part of the country. Police officer William White pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and theft of government funds. The three bondsmen, Robert, Phil, and Paul Jacobs, pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery. The bondsmen admitted to making cash payments to White and other officers in exchange for apprehension of bail bond fugitives and referrals. The bondsmen must repay $750,000 in forfeited funds and the prosecutor has recommended prison time and additional fines.

A link to coverage in the case is found at KFSB here.
Expected impact of Jacobs' bail business to court system.

DIFP Orders License Revocation for L&C

The DIFP has ordered that L&C Investment Corporation’s general bail bond license be revoked. According to the DIFP’s order, a disciplinary hearing was held in October and neither L&C nor its attorney was present. Earlier this year, the Administrative Hearing Commission ruled that L&C was subject to discipline for failing to satisfy a judgment in Buchanan County. The AHC did not find cause to discipline L&C in the complaint regarding the refund of a bail bond premium, when the bail bond did not result in the release of the defendant. In the same ruling, the AHC said that L&C President Doug Cheatham was not subject to discipline.

Previous Coverage:
Appellant Court Rules Against L&C
L&C Appeals to Supreme Court
MO Supreme Court Denies L&C Case
DIFP Files Complaint Against L&C
Press coverage from KMBC-9
AHC Rules Cause to Discipline
L&C Files Lawsuit Against Court and DIFP
L&C Dismisses Lawsuit Against DIFP

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

DIFP Refused to Renew Bail License

The DIFP has refused to renew John W. Garrett’s bail bond license. Garrett has been licensed since 1997. The department’s order states that Garrett entered a plea of guilty in 1996 to unlawful use of a weapon and received a suspended imposition of sentence after completing one year of probation. According to the order, Garrett did not disclose the SIS on his 2007 renewal application. Garrett has 30 days to ask for a hearing before the Administrative Hearing Commission.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Former Bondsman Gets Extensive Press Coverage

Last March former bondsman Thomas C. McGee made the news in Columbia after The Missourian investigated his bail bond license. The Missourian reported that although McGee was convicted of attempted arson in 2001 and aiding a felon in Kansas, he was able to get his bail bond license in 2004. (McGee had been convicted of pouring gasoline in the hallway of his home where three women lay bedridden.) The DIFP spokesperson criticized the way the department investigator had handled McGee’s case. The Missourian reported that former Investigator Volkmer closed McGee’s file stating, “Due to extreme mental problems at the time of the incident and from the police report, it appears that Mr. McGee was making a cry for help and this incident of arson was also an attempted suicide. There have not been any consumer complaints against Mr. McGee since his original license was issued. I believe this file should be closed with no further action.” His license expired in March 2007, and the DIFP was quoted saying that if he should re-apply, his application would be denied.

Two months later, the Kansas Department of Insurance revoked McGee’s license, citing its authority based on the fact his license had been cancelled in Missouri, he was a convicted felon, and the interests of the public were not served under the license.

A few months later KCTV Channel 5, of Kansas City, reported about McGee in a three part series. KCTV reported that a manhunt for McGee in connection with a robbery in Kansas, then reported that he was captured, and concluded its investigation reporting on McGee’s criminal past and licensing. The station interviewed an official from the Kansas Department of Insurance, who said that Kansas had issued McGee a bail bond license in good faith after Missouri had issued him a license and that the Kansas Department of Insurance was taking a close look at this situation.

McGee worked under the authority of his mother, Cynthia Saulmon. Her license, and the license of her company, Afford Able Bail Bonds, Inc., is currently under disciplinary proceedings before the Administrative Hearing Commission. Her case is scheduled to be heard by the AHC on November 7th.

It is unfortunate for us all that six months of bad press surrounded McGee, shedding a bad light on everyone in this industry, especially since McGee should have never been licensed in the first place.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bail Bond Tricks and Traps

Here is a great read at the American Chronicle. The article was written for the public to help them learn about reputable bail bond companies and how to identify bail bond scams. While some of the California bail laws discussed are not laws in Missouri, much of the advice is useful to anyone shopping for a bail bond agent.

The article warns the public about discount bond practices, bail solicitation, and how to avoid being scammed by an imposter.

TX Bail Employee Assaulted on the Job

My heart sank as a read the following report on FortBendNow of Richmond, TX:

A female bail bond office employee was sexually assaulted by two men as she manned a bail bond office on the night shift. Two men allegedly entered the bail bond office at 1:30 am and began asking questions about a bond. One of the suspects then pulled out a gun and demanded money. When they learned there was no cash in the office, they then took the woman to a back room and sexually assaulted her. The two suspects have not been caught or identified. The police are appealing to the public for leads in the case.

We all find ourselves working into the wee hours of the night, sometimes alone with people we don’t know. Try to be safe.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bail PAC Files Report

The Missouri Professional Bail Bond(ing) Association-Political Action Committee has filed its October quarterly report. Again this quarter, a single $1,000 contribution was reported from an unlicensed bail bond corporation managed by general agent Jack Allison.

The committee reported the $1,000 donation from A-Aero Bail Bonds, LLC. According to the Missouri Secretary of State, A-Aero was organized in 2005 by Jack Allison and his agent, Ray Vunovich. A-Aero does not hold a bail bond license in Missouri.

The following received contributions from the PAC:

Representative Steve Hodges D-East Prairie, $100
Representative Tom Dempsey R-St. Charles, Senate campaign, $250
Senator Jason Crowell R-Cape Girardeau, $150
Missouri Legislative Black Caucus-$200

Last quarter, the committee reported another single $1,000 contribution from one of Jack Allison’s unlicensed bail bond companies, American Guarantee Surety, Inc. The Secretary of State’s website shows Virgil Lee Jackson and Allison were both officers until Jackson’s arrest in 2005. Allison currently serves as president. American was incorporated by Virgil Lee Jackson in 2002 with a stated purpose to write surety bonds. Although bonds were written in Missouri, American has never held a bail or insurance license. American still files annual reports in Missouri.

Link to post from July quarterly report.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

La. Judges & Bondsman Indicted for Bribery

A Louisiana bondsman and two judges have been indicted in US District Court , Western District of Louisiana, for RICO violations involving 24 counts of public bribery. Named in the indictment is bondsman Larry Neal Williams and Caddo Parish judges Vernon Claville and Michael Walker. The US Attorney alleges that the judges accepted bribes from Williams 24 times over a two month period in order to lower bonds, remove detention holds, and/or set low bonds. Williams owns A-Instant Bail Bonds and is an appointed agent of Allegheny Casualty Company, according to the Louisiana Department of Insurance.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bondsman Arrested After Shots Fired

General agent David Vinson is currently being held in the Morgan County Jail on charges related to a fugitive recovery incident which occurred last Friday. According to the Lake Sun Leader and the Versailles Leader-Statesman , Vinson shot at a fugitive as he was escaping in a red SUV, shattering the back glass of the vehicle. The reports indicate that the fugitive successfully escaped and his whereabouts were unknown as of Friday. Vinson has been charged with unlawful use of a weapon, tampering, 2nd degree assault, 1st degree assault, and discharge of a weapon at a moving vehicle. Vinson is currently being held on a $50,000 cash only bond.

Vinson, of Camdenton, has been a general agent since August and an agent since 1998. He has two agents working under his authority.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

AHC Rules Cause to Discipline in Residency Case

The Administrative Hearing Commission has ruled that there is cause to discipline the bail bond licenses of U&K Investments, Ulis Vickers, and Kristin Vickers. The AHC ruled that the Vickers and their company had committed misrepresentation to the DIFP when they claimed on their licensing applications to be residents of Missouri when they were residents of Kansas. The Vickers have surrendered their Missouri bail bond licenses. The ruling will become final in 30 days and then the DIFP will convene a hearing to determine what discipline to issue them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Unsatisfied Judgments

The bail bond unsatisfied judgment list is compiled by the DIFP and the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator. The following companies appear on the list published 9/28/2007. The list is distributed to local courts via electronic means.

1) L&C Investment Group, president-Douglas Cheatham of Blue Springs, MO-2 judgments, $101,500
2) A&J Bail Bonding, LLC-no longer licensed company-4 judgments, $4,000

L&C is also listed under pending disciplinary action. The Administrative Hearing Commission ruled that there was cause to discipline L&C. The disciplinary hearing is scheduled for today.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

AHC Rules Cause to Discipline L&C

The Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) has issued a ruling on the disciplinary complaint filed by the DIFP against L&C Investment Corporation and its president, Doug Cheatham. The complaint was filed by the DIFP in May 2005. After several continuances the AHC heard the complaint in January 2007 and issued its opinion in late July, ruling that there was cause to discipline L&C and there was no cause to discipline Cheatham.

The DIFP alleged in its complaint that Cheatham and L&C had committed misappropriation, misconduct, gross negligence, fraud, misrepresentation, or incompetence by not returning a $9,999 bond premium when the bond failed to secure the release of a defendant Antonio Flemons. L&C wrote a $100,000 in Lafayette County in March 2004. Flemons was being held by Missouri Department of Corrections. Three months later the court declared a scrivener’s error and determined that the bond was intended to be cash-only. Flemons was never released from custody. Cheatham testified that he attempted to return some and then the entire premium to the defendant’s family, but an agreement was never reached. The AHC said in its ruling, “The Director produces no evidence or law that the filing of the bond, even if it did not result in the defendant’s release from prison, is not consideration for the bond payment. The Director has failed to meet his burden to prove that the continual retention of the bail payment by respondents is unauthorized or in violation of any contract” and ruled there was no cause to discipline Cheatham or L&C.

The Department also alleged that L&C should be disciplined for failing to satisfy a judgment in Buchanan County in violation of 374.755.1(6) RSMO. L&C posted a $100,000 bond for defendant Mark Wilson. Wilson pleaded guilty but failed to show up for commitment to DOC 30 days later. L&C appealed the bond forfeiture decision to the Western District Appellate Court, which denied the appeal. L&C filed a motion for rehearing or transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court. Both were denied. L&C, at the time of the hearing, had filed a notice of intent to file a writ of certiorari to appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Heartland Bonding posted a supersedeas bond on the $100,000 judgment on behalf of L&C. L&C’s attorney argued that the case was not ripe for a decision because L&C had not exhausted all of its appeals. The AHC ruled that disciplinary action can proceed even when an appeal is taken and ruled that there was cause to discipline L&C under 374.755.1(6) because it failed to satisfy the judgment within six months as required by 374.763.1.

The DIFP will convene a hearing on October 10th to determine what disciplinary action to take against L&C.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bondsman Apprehends 'Dead' Fugitive

According to this report in the Star Press of Muncie, IN, on the day Shawnda Hatfield was scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on a forgery conviction, a newspaper obituary announced her unexpected death and cremation. The obituary appeared after a caller claiming to be Hatfield's niece phoned the newspaper to report her death, later providing a telephone number purported to be that of a Florida crematory handling the deceased's remains. The Star Press also received an obituary notice from an Eaton funeral home, announcing "Shawanda Hatfield" had died Aug. 28 in a Tampa hospital, with cremation planned in Florida. A copy of the death notice was sent by fax that day to the judge's office.

An unnamed bondsman, acting on rumors that Hatfield was in fact alive, tracked the convicted felon down and apprehended her. After she was returned to custody, Hatfield was sentenced to six-years with two years suspended. Hatfield had previously served time in the Indiana Department of Corrections for forgery.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

DIFP Refuses to Renew Agent's License

The DIFP has refused to renew the bail bond license of Edward Loughary of Crystal City. According to the Department’s order, Loughary’s license was refused because he pled guilty in US District Court to mail fraud in 1993. The order states that Loughary is disqualified for licensure because of the plea and for fraud and deception on his 2003 initial application for licensure. Loughary answered “yes” to the question concerning any felony convictions on his 2007 renewal application. But according to the Department, Loughary answered “no” to a similar question on his 2003 application.

Loughary has 30 days to ask for a hearing before the AHC.

Assault Attempted with Pickax

According to this report from The Billings Gazette, an unnamed, Montana bondsman was assaulted with a pickax while questioning an individual about a bond fugitive. No one was hurt in the incident.

According to the report, Peter Dolan, 54, was arrested Tuesday when deputies responded to a disturbance at a residence. When they arrived, a man who identified himself as a bail bondsman said he was at the residence looking to arrest a man who had violated a bond agreement. The bondsman said he approached Dolan and asked if he knew where to find his client. The bondsman said Dolan grabbed a pickax and swung it at him. The bondsman said he took out pepper spray he carries with him and threatened Dolan with the chemical if he did not put down the ax. Dolan put down the ax and the bondsman called law enforcement.

Dolan was charged with assault with a weapon and held on $10,000 bond.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Springfield Bondsman Praised for Good Instincts

Eric Prothero was profiled in this report from KY3-TV and characterized as “a witness with a good eye and some good instincts.” Prothero, a bondsman from Springfield, was the victim of a robbery at a convenience store last Tuesday. According to the report, the accused robber, Travis Patterson, entered the Kum and Go Convenience Store demanding that Prothero and the store clerk get on the floor. After robbing the store, the accused fled the scene in a car. Prothero watched the man leave taking note of his vehicle. Prothero then jumped in his own car, caught up with the Patterson and reported the license plate number of the get-away car to police. Patterson was arrested for the robbery and the hold-up of two other Springfield convenience stores.

Patterson has been charged with three counts of 1st degree robbery and is being held in the Greene County Jail on $150,000 bond.

Also see: Springfield News-Leader article on Prothero

Mike Thomas: Life as a Bondsman

General agent and training provider Mike Thomas was profiled in his home-town newspaper, the Marshall Democrat-News. Thomas spoke about his job as a bondsman and how changes in the law affected him and his business. He also addressed some misconceptions about bail bonding in Missouri.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

License Renewal Tips

Many of you have already renewed your licenses this year. For those who haven’t, here is some information to help you glide through the renewal process.

First of all, don’t wait until the last minute to complete your continuing education requirement. You are required to take eight hours of continuing education before your renewal. Many providers are scheduling these classes once a month, or as demand requires. You may not find a class in time if you wait until after you receive your renewal notice. Look at the right pane of this page for links to DIFP approved training providers. The class instructor will give you a certificate after you complete the class. The information on the certificate is used to complete the continuing ed. summary form sent with your renewal notice.

Secondly, you will have to be finger-printed by L1ID. In rural locations, they fingerprint once a week or once every-other week. To schedule an appointment for finger-printing, go to their site at and click schedule an appointment. The cost is $56.95. They do not take cash or credit cards the day of the appointment. You can pay by credit card online, in advance. You do not have to wait until you receive your renewal notice to schedule your appointment. The fingerprints are sent electronically and not returned with your renewal packet.

Download the renewal application from the DIFP web site. The renewal fee is $150.00 by business check, money order, or cashier’s check. Personal checks are not accepted by the DIFP.

If you are renewing your agent’s license, in addition to the completed application, you will need the original signature of your general agent, the completed continuing education summary, the renewal notice sent to you by mail, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

If you are renewing your general agent license, in addition to the application, continuing education summary, renewal notice, self-addressed envelope, you will also need a notarized affidavit stating that you are devoting at least 50% of your working time to the bail bond business, and an original letter from your bank, dated within 60 days of your renewal, stating that your CD is still on deposit and assigned to the State of Missouri.

The best advice I can give is do as much of the renewal paperwork as possible in advance of receiving your renewal notice. Do not delay in getting application packet in the mail as soon as you receive your renewal from the DIFP. Some agents have reported that it takes 30+ days to get their licenses renewed. Several have reported the their criminal background and fingerprinting checks have been delayed for various reasons. The DIFP will remove your name from the list of licensed agents if your renewal is not approved before your license expiration date.

DIFP Licensing Actions

The DIFP has filed several new licensing actions on its web site. The department has refused to issue two new bail bond licenses to individuals who have felony convictions in their backgrounds.

The DIFP has also refused to renew Gerald Franks’ general agent license. According to the department’s order, Franks’ license was not renewed because of his conviction in Daviess County in 2006. Franks was disciplined last February for this conviction. After a lengthy process, last February the Director ruled that because of mitigating factors, Franks’ license should be suspended for three days.

Franks submitted a renewal application in August. The Director’s refusal order states that in the February administrative action, the Director had full discretion to impose a three day suspension for the conviction of possession of a controlled substance. The new order states that on January 1, 2007, the qualification standard of the Missouri Supreme Court for bail bond agents was substantially raised for recent prior criminal history. The Director said, “As Applicant has failed to submit proof that he ‘meets the qualifications for surety on bail bonds as provided by supreme court rule’ under 374.715.1 RSMo, the Director has no discretion to issue the bail bond license.”

The director also stated: “Despite decisions by the Administrative Hearing Commission that could be subject to an interpretation that the law in effect at the time of the plea
should be applied, the Director believes that Rule 33.17 is currently effective and is intended by the Missouri Supreme Court to guide all Missouri courts charged with administering the qualifications for bail bond agents operating in those courts. For the Director to apply a conflicting or different qualification standard would produce the very undesirable result of the executive branch granting licenses to individuals, but who are unqualified by review in the judicial branch. For all of these reasons, and even if the 374.715 could be interpreted in such a manner to not mandate disqualification of the Applicant, the Director now exercises his discretion in refusing to renew the Applicant."

Franks and the other two applicants have thirty days to file for a hearing before the Administrative Hearing Commission.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Avett Faces More Charges

More charges have been filed against Missouri licensed bondsman Randall Avett. He has been charged in St. Louis County with forcible rape, forcible sodomy, unlawful use of a weapon, and felonious restraint. Avett was arrested on August 10th and is being held in the St. Louis County jail with a $150,000 cash only bond. According to KSDK, Avett held a woman against her will at his business, RDA Towing & Recovery, where the alleged assaults took place.

In a separate case, Avett was charged in Jefferson County with burglary, armed criminal action, felonious restraint, and property damage. The victims allege that Avett and other bondsmen forced entry into their house while conducting fugitive recovery work. The victims reported that the bondsmen had made entry on the wrong house.

Avett works under the authority of Rick Adams and has been licensed since December 2005.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Blunt Orders Troopers to Check Immigration Status

Governor Blunt has directed the Missouri Department of Public Safety (Highway Patrol, Water Patrol, and Capitol Police) to check the immigration status of every person they detain. Blunt cited a murder in New Jersey where an illegal immigrant, who was previously arrested for child rape and released on bond, was among those charged in the murder of three college students. The illegal immigrant was never reported to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unit when arrested on the previous charges. Blunt stated that identifying the accused as an illegal immigrant when he was originally arrested could possibly have prevented the murders.

Blunt directed all law enforcement units in the Department of Public Safety to:

· Prepare for special training and deputization that allows state law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration law as authorized through section of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
·Encourage and assist local law enforcement to apply for immigration enforcement status and to otherwise offer state assistance, resources and support including making available Live Scan for local law enforcement agencies that will use it. To date, the state has invested more than $2 million of homeland security money in Live Scan, which allows fingerprints to be scanned in the field.
·Verify the immigration status of every individual presented for incarceration with ICE computer background status check and to complete full background checks on any accompanying adults. Anyone identified as illegal will be detained to prevent them from committing any crimes.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Charges Filed Against Three Bondsmen

Charges have been filed by the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s office against three Missouri licensed bail bond agents and two other men. According to casenet, charges have been filed against bondsmen Steven Morgan, Randall Avett, and Thaddeus Bibb, who all work under the authority of Rick Adams. The two other unlicensed men, Brandon Morgan and Rudulph Whiston, were also charged on related offenses. The prosecutor’s office has charged the men with burglary, armed criminal action, felonious restraint, and property damage. All face bonds of $47,000, except for Avett whose bond is listed at $10,000. Casenet records indicate that Steven Morgan, Brandon Morgan, and Bibb have posted bond through Adams.

The charges stem from fugitive recovery work. Allegedly, the men forced entry at a residence where they believed the fugitive to be staying. The fugitive was not at the residence and the residents denied knowing the suspect. The police were summoned by the residents and charges resulted three months after the incident.

IRB Offers Free Trial to Bondsmen

I received a solicitation from IRB Search today. IRB is an online skip-tracing tool and is offering bail bond agents 500 free searches in the month of September. It is also offering bondsmen a free web seminar on how to use their product. Details on the free trial are posted on IRB’s website. In order to qualify, you must submit a copy of your bail bond license when applying for access.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dotson Faces New Charges

According to a superseding indictment filed in US District Court in St. Louis, new charges have been filed against Glen Dotson. Last Thursday, a grand jury filed a superseding indictment charging Dotson with conspiracy to use/cause others to use a facility in interstate commerce with the intent to murder an individual and conspiracy to deliver a firearm to a known felon. The indictment names bail bond competitor Jerry Cox as the intended victim of the murder conspiracy. Dotson is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges on Thursday.

Dotson was previously charged with delivering a firearm to Virgil Lee Jackson, a known felon. Jackson pleaded guilty earlier this month in the conspiracy to murder Cox. Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced on November 1st.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On the Web

A few months ago I featured several Missouri bail bond companies who market their businesses on the web. It was pointed out to me that I missed a couple of companies. Here are two other examples:

MU Bail Bonds/Josh Kayser

Peak Bail Bonds/Tom Peak

Friday, August 17, 2007


Yesterday, I published the outstanding judgment list, better known as-- THE LIST. If you have been around the bail industry very long, you have heard of THE LIST. Most general agents say “THE LIST” with fear and reverence, hoping their names never appear on THE LIST. Everyone wants to know who IS on THE LIST. Like the Momo the monster legend, most agents have never seen THE LIST, they have just heard about its existence.

To better understand THE LIST, you should understand where it comes from. First of all, the list is required by state law to be disseminated to local courts. The law states that the DIFP shall furnish each presiding circuit judge “…a list of all duly licensed and qualified bail bond agents and general bail bond agents whose licenses are not subject to pending suspension or revocation proceedings, and who are not subject to unsatisfied bond forfeiture judgments.” Unsatisfied judgments are reported to OSCA and/or the Department by local courts. If you have an unpaid judgment, you're on the list. To get off the list, the court must report the judgment satisfied. I assume that section of the list dealing with disciplinary action, the DIFP lists companies/agents who have pending for complaints for license revocation or suspension filed with the AHC.

I find THE LIST difficult to understand and have spoken to the DIFP about it several times. The clerks receive a copy of the list from OSCA in email format. Here’s what the body of the email says:

All Area Bonding
American Bail Bond Associates Ltd.
Amwest Surety
Billingsley Bail Bonds
Bonnett, Charles (d.b.a. Chuck's Bail Bonds)
Continental Fidelity Surety Co., Inc.
Doane, Kevin (GBBA*) (Deceased)
Gillihan, James (d.b.a. KC Bonding)
Gillihan, Shana (d.b.a. KC Bonding)
National Bonding Company
Rogers, Terry J. (GBBA*) (d.b.a. Rogers Bonding)
Swinson, Marcus (d.b.a. A & M Swinson Bail Bonding)"

Some clerks have told me they think the body of the email IS the list. The body of the email contains companies and agents who had licensing issues around the year 2000. These names appear in the email unchanged from month to month. You must click on the attachment to know who is on the real, current list. The attachment is an excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has no title or date, so if the clerk prints it out to disseminate to other staff, no one knows what it is or which list is current.

Finally, the content of the list: The content of the outstanding judgment section of the list is only as accurate as the information received from local courts. But I think for the most part, if you land on the list you have an unsatisfied judgment. As far as the disciplinary section of the list, now that is a puzzle. Jerry Franks appears on the pending disciplinary section again this month. His disciplinary action was settled last February. Ozell Scott’s license was revoked by the Director in June, but his name still shows under pending action. Lee Jackson has had a pending action since 2005, but his name is not on the list at all. Afford Able Bail Bonds, Inc. has had a pending disciplinary action since May, yet the current list is marked “NO” under pending action for this company. There are other companies and agents on the list who currently have no pending actions for revocation or suspension and there are companies and agents who have disciplinary complaints who do not appear on the list. It seems unfair to me that pending actions are published at all. The agent/company has only an allegation of wrong-doing at the point they are published on the list used for court approval.

No one wants to see his/her name on THE LIST. If your name ever appears on THE LIST and you don’t know why, start making phone calls.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Unsatisfied Judgment List

The bail bond unsatisfied judgment list is compiled by the DIFP and the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator. The following companies/general agents appear on the current list. The list is distributed to local courts via electronic means.

1) L&C Investment Group, president-Douglas Cheatham of Blue Springs, MO-2 judgments, $101,500
2) C&M Bonding, Inc.- president, Cody Ice of Houston, MO-8 judgments, $116,000
3) Afford Able Bail Bonds, Inc-no longer licensed company-1 judgment, $650.

The following agents/companies appear in the section listing pending disciplinary action: A Way Out Investments, Gerald Franks, Ozell Scott, A Aarons Bonding, and David McKinney.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Jackson Pleads Guilty

Virgil Lee Jackson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder this morning in US District Court in St. Louis. Jackson’s trial was scheduled to begin today. His sentencing is scheduled for November 1st and Jackson remains in federal custody. According to the US attorney's press release, Jackson faces up to 10 years in prison. Jackson has been in federal custody since October 2005, after he was arrested for conspiring to murder his local competitor, Jerry Cox.

Jackson had been licensed as a bail bond agent since 1996. According to several news articles, when Jackson licensed he was also a convicted felon. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Jackson reported he had been convicted of burglary in 1959, burglary in 1967, forcibly breaking into a post office in 1971, and first-degree robbery in 1984.

Jackson, who was a member and director of MPBBA, was instrumental in changing the bail bond law so that felons who had been convicted more than 15 years ago could be licensed. Jackson had previously been denied a general agent's license because of his convictions.

Read the US attorney's press release here.
Link to STL Post Dispatch article.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Dotson/Jackson Trials Scheduled Again

Virgil Lee Jackson is scheduled to go to trial in less than two weeks, on August 13th. Accused accomplice Glen Dotson is scheduled for trial on September 10th. Jackson and Dotson are both charged in federal court on criminal charges related to the alleged conspiracy to murder bail bond competitor Jerry Cox. Jackson remains in federal custody charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and using interstate commerce with the intent to murder for pecuniary gain. Dotson is out on bond and charged with furnishing a weapon to Jackson, who is a convicted felon.

Previous Coverage below.
Lee Jackson held on federal charges 4/1/2006
Dotson Arrested/New Charges for Jackson 6/2/2006
Dotson/Jackson trial postponed 6/8/2006
Arraignment 6/13/2006
Trial postponed again 10/28/2006
Dotson Freed on Bond 11/15/2006
Jackson Accused of Another Murder Plot 11/22/2006
January Trial Date Postponed 1/22/2007
March Date Postponed 3/19/2007

Bondsmen Serving As Elected Officials

Can you be a bondsman and also serve on the local school board, city council, or other elected position? Can you be an employee of the county, city, or other political subdivision and keep your bail bond license? The question has arisen several times over the years, and the answer is…..sometimes.

Missouri Supreme Court Rule 33.17(e) says: A person shall not be accepted as a surety on any bail bond unless the person is not an elected or appointed official or employee of the State of Missouri or any county or other political subdivision thereof, except that this disqualification shall not apply if the principal is the spouse, child or family member of the surety.

Additionally 374.702(2) RSMO 2005 says: No judge, attorney, court official, law enforcement officer, state, county, or municipal employee who is either elected or appointed shall be licensed as a bail bond agent or a general bail bond agent.

Back in 1980, (33.17e has not changed since that time) rule 33.17 was addressed by former Missouri Attorney General John Ashcroft. The AG was asked if a bondsman could also serve on the local school board. Ashcroft opined, “The terms of Rule 33.17 are clear and unequivocal. If a person is an official or employee of a political subdivision, he cannot be accepted as surety on a bail bond.” The AG defined political subdivision as defined in the Missouri Constitution Art. X, § 15: “The term “other political subdivisions,” as used in this article, shall be construed to include townships, cities, towns, villages, school, road, drainage, sewer and levee districts and any other public subdivision, public corporation or public quasi-corporation having the power to tax..” Ashcroft concluded that an elected school board member could not be accepted as surety on a bond. See AG opinion 95-80.

A decade or so later Senator Jet Banks was able to get his bail bond license while serving in the Missouri Senate. The administration at the Department of Insurance explained that Banks was able to have a bail bond license because he was not the surety under rule 33.17. The administration at that time held that the general agent or company backing the bond was the “surety” and a bail bond agent was simply an agent of the surety. Several bail bond agents around the state were then allowed to hold public office and also hold an agent license.

The question was publicized again in 1998 when Mike Randolph was elected county coroner. The question arose as to whether Randolph was the “surety” as defined by rule 33.17 and whether he could also serve as coroner. In an interview with Randolph, the Mornin’ Mail said, “He says he is an agent for a surety, but he does not qualify as a surety himself. He comes to this conclusion after obtaining legal advice as to the definition of a surety. According to Randolph, a surety is an individual that has assets at risk for a bond that is executed. As an agent, Randolph says he simply receives a commission for bonds that he arranges for the surety.” The county attorney saw it differently and said there was no distinction between any principal and an agent of that principal and that Randolph could not be Coroner and work as a bail bondsman. In January, Randolph resigned before taking office. The Mornin’ Mail reported that the court did have some reservations about approving Randolph as a bondsman if he was the Coroner in light of the Rules of Criminal Procedure. Randolph's resignation resolved the question.

In May 2004, legislation was passed prohibiting a bondsman from serving as an elected or appointed official and simultaneously holding a bail bond agent license or a general agent license. The enactment of this law caused another coroner to resign his position. David Haley held a bail bond license and also worked as coroner in Randolph County. He filed for re-election in 2004. Later in 2004, the law was passed prohibiting him from having a bail license and serving as coroner. Haley won his bid for re-election and the new law took effect in January 2005. The Moberly Monitor-Index reported that Haley contacted department officials who said he would be unable to renew his bail bond license because of his job as coroner. Haley also contacted legislators in an effort to have the statute repealed. In the end, Haley was forced to choose between his license and his job as coroner. He resigned as coroner before renewing his license.

I asked the DIFP how they currently interpreted this statute and Supreme Court Rule 33.17. So far, I have not received a reply. If you are a public official or thinking of running for public office, just be aware that other bondsmen successfully ran campaigns and then were forced from office.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Inmate Poses as Bondsman in Scam

Bond scams seem to be becoming more prevalent. The Eastern Wake News, located in North Carolina, reported an alleged scam of posing as a bondsman to steal bail bond money from a mother. The alleged scam artists claimed to be collecting the money to bond her mentally challenged son who was in the county jail. Here’s how this one worked:

Inmate Danny Cole and accomplice Joshua Smith allegedly called Bonnie Childers (the mother of mentally challenged inmate Christopher Childers) and posed as bail bondmen. Cole instructed Childers to take $1,500 to a parking lot and meet Smith. Ms. Childers became suspicious when her caller id disclosed that Cole’s calls were coming from the county jail. She reported the calls to police. Police then went to the parking lot where they found accomplice Smith waiting for Childers. Smith told officers Cole had asked him to meet Childers and then deliver the money to another woman, who was then supposed to take it to Cole at the jail. The intention was to use Childers’ money to get Cole out of jail.

As of the time of publication, no one had been charged in the scam.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hugh Found Guilty of Wire-Tapping

Bondsman Richard Hugh, of Sparta, was found guilty of wire-tapping by intercepting the telephone communications of a Springfield resident without permission according to a press release issued by the US Attorney’s office. Hugh's trial began last Monday. The jury deliberated about an hour before delivering the verdict.

Hugh placed the phone tap on the victim’s telephone line in December 2005 in an attempt to get information that would help him locate Basil Minor, who was a fugitive in a Lawrence County, Mo., circuit court case.

Under federal statutes, Hugh could be subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Prosecution Underway for Impersonating a Bondsman

A prosecution is underway in Barry County against James E. Carrington for impersonating a bail bondsman. This may be the first time in Missouri that a prosecution under this statute (374-789 RSMO) has been attempted.

Allegedly, Carrington claimed to be a bondsman while performing repossession work. A complaint was filed alleging Carrington claimed to be a bondsman and he threatened arrest when confronted while trying to repossess a vehicle.

The case number is 07BR-CR00723 filed in Barry County. Impersonating a bondsman is a Class D felony.

Carrington used the services a real bondsman and posted a $10,000 bond in the case.

Bail PAC Files Report

The Missouri Legislature is not in session but political fund-raising is still in season. The Missouri Professional Bail Bond(ing) Association-Political Action Committee has reported a single, large contribution from the last quarter. On the same day, the committee disbursed this contribution.

The committee reported a $1,000 donation from American Guarantee Surety, Inc. I found it interesting that American was still in business and making political contributions. American Guarantee was organized by Lee Jackson in 2002. One of the stated purposes of the corporation was to “carry on the business of writing surety bonds.” American (and Jackson’s other company Missouri National Surety) came into the limelight in 2005 when Jackson allegedly conspired to murder his competitor Jerry Cox. The press reported that affidavits filed in the Jackson case allege Jackson wanted Cox murdered because he believed Cox had reported to authorities that Jackson’s companies were fraudulent. (American and National were never licensed as insurance companies and never held bail bond licenses, although agents were writing bonds under American’s paper.)

Until his arrest in 2005, Jackson served as president, vice-president, and other offices of American. American continues to file annual reports with the Missouri Secretary of State, although it no longer backs bonds in Missouri. Since Jackson’s incarceration, he is no longer on the board or an officer. The president’s position has since been held by Jack Allison.

The following Missouri House members received the contribution by American Guarantee:

Steve Tilley R –Perryville, MO - $200
Jamilah Nasheed D – St. Louis, MO $250
Jason Smith R – Salem, MO $200
Jason Holsman D – Kansas City, MO $200

*Jackson is scheduled to go to trial on the murder conspiracy charge and a related charge of felon in possession of a firearm on August 13th in the US District Court in St. Louis.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bondsman On Trial, Faces Federal Charges

Today is the second day in a four day trial against Richard Hugh of Sparta. Hugh has been a licensed bondsman since 2002 and presently works under the authority of Ray Callanan of Farmington.

Hugh is charged in US District Court with wiretapping and witness intimidation. The US prosecutor alleges that Hugh illegally tapped a telephone in order to gain information about a bail fugitive and later intimidated a witness to drop the complaint against Hugh.

*According to the MPBBA website, both Hugh and Callanan are members of the state bail association. Callanan serves as a director.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Editorial on Cash to the Court Bonds

Here’s a pretty informative and funny editorial on ten percent cash bonds. The editorialist lists the enormity of FTAs and a proven solution.

Here's a quote from the article: "So state bondsmen are hoping to do away with the 10-percent rule -- or at least have it employed more sparingly. Studies have shown that if judges require surety bonds -- meaning someone puts up, say, Mom's house as collateral -- they're 28 percent more likely to show up for court."

DIFP Refuses to Renew License

The DIFP has refused to renew Phillip Joyce’s bail bond license. This is not the first time in the ring for Joyce. He has been denied a license twice before by the Department and has a 1-1 record with the Administrative Hearing Commission on the DIFP’s decisions.

In the most recent Department action, the DIFP refused to renew Joyce’s license because he was convicted in 1995 of stealing by deceit in Scott County, Missouri, and pled nolo contendere to the same type of charge in Craighead County, Arkansas. The DIFP alleges that Joyce is not qualified for a bail bond license because the Department must apply the current licensing statutes retrospectively, that because of Joyce’s convictions, he does not meet supreme court rule, and that he committed fraud or deception by not disclosing his nolo contendere case in Arkansas on his application. Joyce has 30 days to appeal the Department’s licensing decision.

I wrote about the two previous Joyce decisions last year. Joyce applied for a bail bond license after his convictions in 1995. The Administrative Hearing Commission granted Joyce a license saying the licensing statute was permissive. They reversed the Department and granted Joyce’s license stating that Joyce exhibited a good reputation in his new community, was resolved not to repeat his mistakes, and was candid about his convictions. The AHC concluded that these factors outweighed the felony convictions and granted him a license. Two years later Joyce applied for a general bail bond license and his application was denied by the Department of Insurance for the same felony convictions. Again, Joyce appealed to the AHC. This time the AHC ruled in favor of the Department of Insurance. The AHC ruled that the wording of the applicable statutes and Missouri Supreme Court Rules prohibited the issuance of a general bail bond license. The commission said that a general bail bond agent shall meet the qualifications for surety on bail bonds as provided by Missouri Supreme Court rule..... And the Supreme Court rule at the time stated “that the surety has not been convicted of any felony under the laws of any state or the United States.”

Bondsmen Remember Colleague

Many bondsmen are mourning the death of Florida bondsman Jerry Dongo, 32, who was married and the father of three. As reported several days ago, Dongo was killed trying to apprehend fugitive Christopher Walls in a car. Walls had a woman and child with him. Walls shot Dongo as he approached the car and then Walls used the young girl as a human shield to prevent the other agents from shooting him. Dongo was with three other licensed bondsmen at the scene. The bondsmen were able to apprehend Walls after the shooting.

Bail bond leaders from around the country are calling for more personal security after this tragic loss. George Zouvelos, President of the NYPBA, New York State Professional Bondsmen & Agents said in a press release, “Our work is extremely dangerous and we should own and wear the best possible body armor we can find. I welcome discussions with the various manufacturers of body armor to discuss the commercial bail industries options for acquiring body armor for our bondsmen.” Joe Mastrapa, general agent of BAIL YES Bonding Agency of Miami Florida said, "Bondsmen in Florida and across the United States mourn the loss of our fallen comrade Jerry Dongo. We ask that each bondsman who initiates apprehensions no matter what State he/she is in to please wear a bullet-proof vest and continue to exercise extreme caution while dealing with and apprehending felons no matter how minor the offense."

Our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Jerry Dongo.

Fugitive Escapes During Transport

The press was critical of bondsmen in a headline reading “Bounty Hunt Costs Taxpayers.” The story focuses on the escape of a fugitive who was traveling from Utah to Ohio when he escaped in Iowa. According to the article, he was escorted by two bondsmen and escaped at a convenience store. Several law enforcement agencies were called to assist in recapturing the fugitive. He was found walking in a ravine a few hours later.

My guess is the local taxpayers would rather have law enforcement assist in finding this out-of-state fugitive, rather than having a desperate run-away fugitive lurking around their city.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

FL Bondsman Killed

A bail bondsmen was shot and killed Monday night at an apartment in Northwest Miami-Dade when he tried to take into custody a man who had failed to pay his bond. The bondsman, who was not wearing a bulletproof vest, was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where he died.

The man was accompanied by two other bail bondsmen, who were able to detain the shooter without any more shots being fired. Miami-Dade police took the shooter into custody.
Police did not release the names of the shooter or victim. Story at Miama Herald.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bondsman Proposes New Bond Program

Bail industry leader, Deborah Jallad, has proposed a solution to concerns about the implementation of the guest worker program for immigrant workers. Her solution--a guest worker accountability bond. In a letter to the Orlando Sentinel, Jallad proposes to allow bail bond agents to write accountability bonds for immigrant workers. Jallad also recommended that guest workers who violate the conditions of their Z Visa or guest-worker permit, commit a felony, or circumvent the immigration process would be subject to apprehension and surrender by the bail bond agent who wrote the immigrant's visa or bond. The agent would then turn the alien over to law enforcement for deportation.

Jallad also praised the bail industry’s track record, citing that the historical loss ratio two years after a failure to appear is approximately 2 percent for defendants released on private surety bail. She also said that a recently released study by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics recognized private surety bail to be the most effective form of pre-trial release.

GPS System Offered to Bondsmen

In a recent press release, Omnilink announced its new partnership with the Professional Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS). Omnilink will provide PBUS members preferred rates on its GPS system to monitor clients. Omnilink says its system is tamper-proof, completely waterproof and capable of tracking people inside buildings, buses, trains and places where other GPS solutions do not work. The company's website details the GPS system.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Web Presence

Here are some examples of how Missouri bail bond companies market their businesses to prospective clients in the digital age.

Rhonda Barnett Bail Bonds

Freedom/Bart Cooper Bail Bonds

Bad Boyz Bail Bonds®/William Yowell

AAA KayCee/Kent Hunter

American Western/Tony Clay

Did I overlook your company? Send me an email.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Director Revokes Bail License

On June 21st, the Director of DIFP ordered the license of Ozell Scott be revoked. A disciplinary hearing was held earlier in the week. Scott did not appear. Department staff recommended that Scott’s license be revoked, and that recommendation was adopted by the Director in his order. In March, the Administrative Hearing Commission ruled that Scott was subject to discipline. His license was issued on August 28, 2001. On March 22, 2006, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Scott entered an Alford plea to resisting arrest, a Class D felony, and pled guilty to unlawful use of a weapon, a Class D felony. The court suspended the imposition of sentence on the resisting arrest. On the weapons charge, the court found Scott guilty and sentenced him to three years in prison, but suspended the execution of sentence. On each count, the court placed him on probation for three years.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Jurors Under the Influence

Newsflash-Judges don’t like it when you slug a few cocktails during the court’s lunch recess.

According to this report from the Kansas City Star, several jury pools were sent home after lunch on Monday, when it was reported that several jurors were observed drinking alcohol during the lunch break.

Bail Bond License Revoked by DIFP

The DIFP has ordered the inactive license of Gerald Cummings be revoked. The department made this ruling after a lengthy administrative and legal process. According to DIFP documents filed in the case, Cummings was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance and unlawful use of a weapon by carrying concealed in 2005. The court suspended imposition of sentence and placed Cummings on probation for five years. The DIFP filed a complaint seeking permission to discipline Cummings. The Administrative Hearing Commission ruled that the DIFP did not have cause to discipline Cummings. The DIFP appealed the AHC decision. Then the Cole County Circuit Court reversed the AHC and found in favor of the department. The DIFP held a disciplinary hearing on June 18th. Cummings did not attend. In the order revoking Cummings' license, Director Doug Ommen said, “A bail bond agent has quasi-police powers including the authority to take custody of defendants released on bail by the courts. The violation of law involving illegally carrying a concealed weapon reveals a disregard of the weapons laws and a significant risk to the courts, defendants released on bail, and the public-at-large in licensing Cummings. In applying this discretion, the Director has considered the history of the Cummings and the circumstances of the violations as described in the grand jury indictment and sentence and judgment."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bondsmen Win Free Speech Appeal

Two bondsmen from Texas have won a case regarding free speech issues in their bail bond businesses. The case was heard by the 5th Circuit, US Court of Appeals.

In the metro areas of Texas, the bail bond business is regulated by county bail bond boards. Carl Pruett and Scott Martin, of Harris County, Texas, filed suit against the Harris County Bail Bond Board. The bondsmen challenged a Texas statute restricting solicitation of potential customers as a denial of their First Amendment rights.

The statute at issue prohibits contacting clients regarding an outstanding warrant, unless the subject of the warrant is a previous customer. Another section restricts the time of solicitation after arrest, prohibiting solicitation in person or by phone from 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m., or within 24 hours after a person has been arrested, either with or without a warrant.

The US appellant court ruled that state statutes were unconstitutional. Full opinion here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

DIFP Files Petition in Christian Case

As expected, the DIFP has filed a petition for review of the Administrative Hearing Commission’s ruling on the Donald Christian case. The AHC said, “The Director of Insurance has no cause to discipline Donald Christian under 374.755 RSMO Supp. 2006, as set forth in the Director’s complaint because that version did not exist at the time Christian was convicted of a felony.”

Christian pled guilty to the felony of possession of a controlled substance in 1998. The Director licensed Christian as a bail bond agent in March 2005. The Director filed a complaint with the AHC in November 2006 because of his felony conviction. The commission said they had no authority to discipline a licensee on the basis of a version of the disciplinary statute that did not exist at the time that the conviction for a proposed disciplinary action. The AHC said that the previous version of the statute in effect at the time of Christian’s 1998 plea allowed discipline for the licensee, but the commission could not use that version because the Director did not rely on it in his complaint.

The last time the DIFP filed a petition for review was the Cummings case. In that ruling, the court reversed the AHC and said that the department can retrospectively apply current bail bond licensing statutes to determine the licensing eligibility of bondsmen.

The case was filed in Cole County Circuit Court, case number: 07AC-CC00528.

Lawsuit Against DIFP Dismissed

L&C Investment et al, has dropped its lawsuit against the DIFP. L&C filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice and it was granted last week.

Original post here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

AHC Decision Summary

Since administrative hearings have become a hot topic, I have decided to compile a brief summary of all of the recent Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) decisions concerning the licensing of bondsmen.

Wright-Decision 6/2006-“Miltonio Wright is subject to discipline for having pled guilty to a felony.” Wright was licensed by the Director as a bail bond agent. His license expired on January 2, 2006. In December 2005, the director filed a complaint to discipline Wright on the basis of a felony conviction. On April 12, 2002, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Wright pled guilty to assault in the second degree, a Class C felony. The court suspended the execution of sentence and placed Wright on probation for five years. The commission said, “The facts in this case are somewhat confusing because the Director’s affidavit shows that Wright was licensed on September 21, 2005, and the license expired on January 2, 2006. The record does not explain why the Director would license someone for such a short term or whether there is some sort of error in these dates. We generally apply the substantive law in effect when the licensee committed the conduct that is the basis for discipline.[1] However, if Wright was not licensed until September 21, 2005, the prior version of the statute was no longer in effect at that time. A licensee could not be disciplined on the basis of a statute that no longer existed when he became licensed.” The AHC further stated, “It is clear that there is cause to discipline his license, regardless of which version of the statute applies. Therefore, we find cause to discipline Wright’s license.”

Cox-Decision date 9/2006- The AHC ruled that the Director of Insurance had cause to discipline James G. Cox for pleading guilty to the federal felony of conspiring to violate civil rights. Cox was licensed in May 2004. In July 2004, Cox pled guilty. The Director filed a complaint against Cox in November 2005. The AHC ruled that Cox was subject to discipline under the statutes in effect at the time the alleged offending conduct occurred.[1] The AHC rejected the DIFP’s argument for discipline under the current disciplinary statutes which went into effect in 2005.

Cummings-Decision date 11/2006-The AHC ruled that the Director of Insurance has not offered any evidence showing that Gerald L. Cummings is subject to discipline. Cummings had been licensed from 1994 and his license expired in November 2005. On February 23, 2005, the Circuit Court of Cass County, Missouri, found Cummings guilty of a Class C felony of possession of a controlled substance and a Class D felony of unlawful use of a weapon, which were alleged to occur in February 2002. On April 18, 2005, the court suspended the imposition of sentence and placed Cummings on probation for five years. The court records submitted do not indicate whether the court’s findings of guilt was after trial or after a plea of guilty or nolo contendere.

The AHC used the 2005 version of the bail bond statutes [374.755.1.(2) Final adjudication or a plea of guilty or nolo contendere within the past fifteen years in a criminal prosecution under any state or federal law for a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude whether or not a sentence is imposed, prior to issuance of license date.] and determined that the records submitted by the DIFP did not indicate there had been “final adjudication, a plea of guilty or nolo contendere” in the case, just that Cummings had been “found guilty.” Thus, the commission ruled that there was no cause to discipline under this statute. The Commission also spent considerable time discussing how to apply the 15 year cut-off date and the “[comma] prior to issuance of license date.” The commission decided to save that decision for another day.

This is where it gets confusing: The Department alleged that Cummings violated the 2005 version of 374.755.2(6) by violating “obligations imposed by the laws of this state.” Although the commission had just ruled on a 2005 statute in a previous section, in this section of the ruling the AHC said that it could not consider a current version of the statute because through the enactment of 1.170, RSMo 2000,[1]
the General Assembly required the AHC to apply the version of the disciplinary statutes that were effective on the date of Cummings’ conduct in 2002. The commission ruled against the DIFP saying the version effective in 2002 restricted the violations to the provisions of the bail bond statutes.

Gillihan-Decision date 12/2006-The AHC ruled to deny Gillihan’s bail bond application on the basis that he is a convicted felon and had deceived the Department during the application process. The decision was based on the statutes in effect prior to the revisions of 2005.[1] Gillihan pled guilty in 1999 in US District Court to aiding and abetting the use of a firearm during a crime of violence. He filed a bail bond license application in 2004. He gave conflicting testimony between information given to the DIFP and sworn testimony given during his court case. Gillihan had admitted in court documents to knowingly buying stolen jewelry from his bail bond client. Gillihan also argued that the DIFP had licensed other felons. The AHC replied, “….disparate treatment does not necessarily entitle the more harshly treated applicant to relief.” Also noteworthy, the AHC said, “Supporting his clients’ criminal enterprises by purchasing their spoils weighs heavily against fitness for a bail bond license.”

Franks-Order 12/2006- Franks pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance in February 2006 and was given a suspended imposition of sentence and five years probation. The DIFP filed a complaint with the AHC in May 2006. A joint motion was filed before the AHC by Gerald Franks, his attorney, and the DIFP which waived a formal hearing, stipulating facts, and consent for cause to discipline. The AHC signed the order in December 2006 finding cause to discipline Franks. A disciplinary hearing was held in January 2007. The DIFP ordered Franks license suspended for three days.

Scott-Decision 3/2007- “Ozell Scott is subject to discipline because he pled guilty to two felonies.” His license was issued on August 28, 2001 and he was licensed at the time of the hearing. On March 22, 2006, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Scott entered an Alford plea to resisting arrest, a Class D felony, and pled guilty to unlawful use of a weapon, a Class D felony. The court suspended the imposition of sentence on the resisting arrest. On the weapons charge, the court found Scott guilty and sentenced him to three years in prison, but suspended the execution of sentence. On each count, the court placed him on probation for three years. The AHC record did not reference the date the alleged violation occurred as they had in other recent rulings. In its final statement the commission said, “One year ago, Scott pled guilty to two felonies. He is subject to discipline under § 374.755.1(2)." RSMO 2005

Cummings Case Appealed-Decision 4/2007-The DIFP appealed this decision to the Cole County Circuit Court. It its ruling, the court said, the retrospective application of the current disciplinary statutes does not run afoul with 1.170 RSMO. The court addressed the Commission’s reference to Comerio v Beatrice Foods saying the case referred to 1.170 RSMO was in reference to “acts done” pursuant to rights vested in a recently repealed statute. The court said that licensing laws confer no substantive rights and is a “privilege granted by the state.” The court further stated that the retrospective application of current licensing laws did not violate the Missouri Constitution because the application of the laws were procedural, did not affect the substantive rights of a party, and the legislature manifested a clear intent to do so. The court also held that “protecting the public health and welfare is a primary purpose of professional licensing statutes.” The court reversed the decision of the AHC on Cummings.

Christian-Decision 5/2007- “The Director of Insurance has no cause to discipline Donald Christian under 374.755 RSMO Supp. 2006, as set forth in the Director’s complaint because that version did not exist at the time Christian was convicted of a felony.” Christian pled guilty to the felony of possession of a controlled substance in 1998. The Director licensed Christian as a bail bond agent in March 2005. The Director filed a complaint with the AHC in November 2006 because of his felony conviction. The commission said they had no authority to discipline a licensee on the basis of a version of the disciplinary statute that did not exist at the time that the conviction for a proposed disciplinary action.[1] The AHC said that the previous version of the statute in effect at the time of Christian’s 1998 plea allowed discipline for the licensee but the commission could not use that version because the Director did not rely on it in his complaint. The ruling does not become final until June 22nd. The DIFP said they intend to appeal this ruling.

The DIFP has stayed the action of another complaint until the question is finally answered as to whether the retrospective application of current licensing statutes can be applied in disciplinary issues. The DIFP has said, in the
Ament order, that it believes the Cummings decision by Cole County Court supports retrospective application of current statutes, while the more recent Christian decision by the AHC contradicts this court ruling.

[1] Section 1.170; Comerio v. Beatrice Foods Co., 595 F. Supp. 918, 920-21 (E.D. Mo. 1984).