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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.