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Sunday, November 30, 2008

CA-Sluggish Economy Hurts Bail Bond Companies

Palm Springs, CA-According to this report filed by KESQ-TV, some California bail bond companies are reporting a 50% drop in business. The bail companies report that fewer people can come up with the minimum premium for release, trouble collecting payments, and the housing slump has reduced the number of indemnitors willing to use their homes for collateral. Jail overcrowding has forced some judges to release defendants without posting bail at all.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bondsman to Stand Trial Next Week

A bench trial is scheduled to begin next week in Jefferson County against Thaddeus Bibb, who was licensed as a bail bond agent until his license expired last month. According to court records, Bibb will stand trial for charges related to a fugitive recovery incident which occurred last year. Bibb is charged with felonious restraint, armed criminal action, burglary, and failing to notify law enforcement of apprehension. Bibb and licensed agents Randall Avett and Steven Morgan, and unlicensed individuals Brandon Morgan and Rudolph Whiston, have were all charged after allegedly entering a residence in search of an individual. According to initial reports, the men allegedly 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.

According to casenet, Brandon and Steven Morgan entered plea agreements and will be sentenced in January. Randall Avett and Rudolph Whiston trial dates have not been set.

Steven Morgan and Thaddeus Bibb are no longer licensed agents. Both have let their licenses expire. Randall Avett is currently licensed and working under the authority of Rick Adams.

CA-Bondsman Arrested in Extortion Plot

Bakersfield, CA-The California bail industry has encountered a lot of press coverage this week after the California Department of Insurance (CDI) issued a press release concerning the alleged activities of Cruz Bail Bonds, owned by Joaquin Cruz. The press release states that CDI worked collaboratively with local law enforcement and prosecutors in a two-year investigation. Cruz was charged with 19 felony counts including embezzlement, false imprisonment, attempted extortion and hiring unauthorized bounty hunters.

According to the press release, CDI investigators discovered that between September 2004 and October 2008, Cruz, owner of Cruz Bail Bonds, allegedly manipulated and coerced bailees and indemnitors into signing incomplete documents. Cruz then purportedly used the documents to fraudulently forge, transfer and sell collateral that he possessed as a bail agent - to profit from his clients without their knowledge. This included the alleged transferring of titles to homes and vehicles to Cruz or his common law wife, Eduvina "Diane" Chacon, even when bailees had not broken terms of their bail bond agreements. Once title was changed, Cruz or Chacon would allegedly use the property themselves, or sell it to retain profits. Property and monetary loss from their alleged scheming is estimated to be at least $298,000.

CDI investigators discovered that Isaac Trevino, a licensed bail bond agent and notary public, conspired with Cruz and Chacon to falsify, forge and alter title documents for property and vehicles. The alleged intent was to pass the titles as genuine with the Kern County Recorder's Office and the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The CDI investigation was launched in August 2006, after the Department received a complaint from an indemnitor, alleging that she had been kidnapped by three unlicensed bounty hunters hired by Cruz. The victim alleged that the bounty hunters threatened to take her to jail if she did not give them additional money or collateral that had not been agreed upon initially.

One of the alleged victims was interviewed by KGET-TV in Bakersfield, who claimed that he had been kidnapped and held for ransom in an extortion plot.

Cruz is an appointed agent of Allegheny Casualty and International Fidelity.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Information in Cox Arrest

The St. Louis Post Dispatch printed a new article today concerning the charges against Gerald Cox, James Cox, and other licensed and unlicensed bounter hunters who were charged yesterday with kidnapping, stealing, tampering with a vehicle, and the licensed men were charged with failing to notify law enforcement before performing an apprehension. James Cox and Morris Davis were additionally charged with performing fugitive recovery without a license.

According to the article: "A raid at motel on Aug. 17 capped weeks of fruitless attempts to grab, bail bond client Leah Renee Pinion. Pinion served some time, got out and went back to jail on a probation violation, Circuit Judge Philip Heagney said. On July 14, her boyfriend arranged for Cox to post a $30,000 bond for Pinion's freedom. The boyfriend paid $1,500 of a $3,000 fee and promised the rest in weekly installments, according to court documents. But on Aug. 9, the boyfriend changed his mind and wanted off of the bond. Judge Heagney suspended Pinion's probation Aug. 11 and ordered her arrest, citing information from her probation officer and a bondsman. Bounty hunters, presumable hired by Jerry Cox, caught Pinion that day, but she escaped. On Aug. 14 and 16, Pinion called Cox to say she would surrender, but she didn't. In a 1:30 a.m. raid at the motel, four bounty hunters grabbed Pinion and her boyfriend together. The two were taken in handcuffs to Jerry Cox's office, court documents say. Alone with the boyfriend after sending the others away, Jerry Cox allegedly toyed with a handgun and said he had spoken to a prosecutor who "asked him why he had not arrested" the boyfriend on charges of aiding and abetting a fugitive, a court affidavit says. Cox allegedly told the boyfriend that he would be charged, and that his $1,500 in cash and home would be seized, unless he paid $5,500, the documents say. When the boyfriend agreed to pay, Cox let him go. The man's mother paid the $5,500 on Aug. 22, using the a life insurance settlement from her stepson's death, according to the documents. James Cox reportedly told her that they could have taken her son's house but were really in the "money business," not the real estate business, the documents say. Wayne Schoenberg, Jerry Cox's lawyer, said his client was home in bed during the raid. The lawyer denied that Jerry Cox had a gun in the meeting, and said there was no agreement to exchange money for a promise of no prosecution. Cox told the boyfriend only that he could have gone to prosecutors, Schoenberg said. The $5,500 represented the $1,500 that the boyfriend still owed, about $1,000 in expenses and a $3,000 fee for sending out bounty hunters — all spelled out in the bail contract, Schoenberg said."

Several news agencies report that James and Jerry Cox presented themselves to authorities yesterday and were booked, posted bond and released.

Read the entire St. Louis Post Dispatch aricle here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bondsmen Charged With Kidnapping

Arrest warrants were issued today for General Agent Gerald “Jerry” Cox (pictured at right) and his son James G. Cox of St. Charles. Warrants have also been issued against Surety Recovery Agent Erik Nolan, licensed bondsmen Kevin Grillion and Dennis Weatherford, and an unlicensed individual named Morris Davis. The six men are charged with burglary, kidnapping, stealing, tampering with a vehicle, and the licensed men were charged with failing to notify law enforcement before performing an apprehension. James Cox and Morris Davis were additionally charged with performing fugitive recovery without a license, a class D felony.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jerry and Jim Cox are accused of ordering the four other men to break into a Maryland Heights motel to bring a man to their office, where they threatened prosecution and taking the man's house if they did not receive $5,500. The man's mother paid the money to gain her son's release.

Gerald Cox has been a licensed general agent since 2003 and has nine agents working under his authority. James Cox's bail bond license was revoked in 2006 after he pleaded guilty to the federal felony of conspiring to violate civil rights. Kevin Grillion has been a licensed bail bond agent since July 2008 and does not work under a general agent's authority. Dennis Weatherford has been a licensed bail bond agent since July 2008 and does not work a general agent's authority. Erik Nolan has been a licensed surety recovery agent since May 2008. Morris Davis is not licensed.

Earlier this week, a judge denied Gerald Cox's petition for a writ of mandamus against St. Louis City Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza. Cox filed the petition after Favazza had not approved Cox's bail bond writing authority in St. Louis City.
Other Press Coverage:
KSDK Channel 5 STL
KMOV Channel 4 STL

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bail Premiums Falling in Alabama

AL-The Press-Register in Mobile, AL reports that the price of freedom is cheap in Mobile. Competition among bondsmen has forced the price of getting out of jail so low that accused criminals only have to come up with a tiny fraction of their bail. Others are released on a small down payment. Read the rest of the article here...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monthly Affidavits Required

The DIFP reports that the following general agents paid voluntary forfeitures of $300 each to the Missouri School Fund to settle disciplinary issues brought by the department. The DIFP alleged that the general agents failed to file sworn monthly affidavits with the department stating that there are no unsatisfied judgments against the general agent. The settlement agreement states that agents voluntarily paid the $300 fine without admission of a violation of the law.

Barry Block-Chesterfield, MO
Donna Cannon-Raytown, MO
Frank Kincaid-Buckner, MO
Michael Palmer-Smithville, MO

Ref: RSMO 374.760. Each general bail bond agent shall file, between the first and tenth day of each month, sworn affidavits with the department stating that there are no unsatisfied judgments against him. Such affidavits shall be in the form and manner prescribed by the department.