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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