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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Open Letter-Joining Together as an Industry

The following is guest commentary submitted by General Agent Ben Hilton of Lebanon, MO.

This letter is my thoughts and beliefs alone; I do not speak for any bond association.

I am writing this to further the warning to the Bail Industry that the opponents to the bail system are increasing their agenda. I truly hope to get the General Agents attention and encourage each and every one of them to get involved in an effort to protect their lively hoods. Personally, I tend to get a little aggravated with the weaknesses of the bail bondsman industry in Missouri.

The Professional Surety Industry as a whole cannot support itself with the bonds that are available currently. The Courts are basically taking advantage of us. They need us and yet do not want us! They are abusing the Bail System; the Surety Bonds presently written today are the cases that have caused problems to the Courts in the past.

We are writing only an estimated one third of the bonds that we were posting a few years ago and our agent numbers have doubled. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to do the math.

Part of the reasoning for the intentional abuse is due to the 2004 law, it upset the Judges, but they have some guilt in this. It was due to their own inconsistency in court procedures concerning bondsman, and they failed to listen to the Bondsman’s pleas. A very small group, based out of St. Louis, supported and helped pass the 2004 legislation, in the long run, it hurt us all.

Because of that law, the Courts will not give us the support that we need to survive….. maybe it is time to contact them and call a truce of some kind. Let’s show them more respect than we gave them in 2004.

Fewer Professional Surety Bonds are posted today, they were replaced with “Release of their own Recognizance”, “cash only”, “10% to the court Bonds”. These methods of pretrial release experience an extremely high rate of failing to appear in Court.

The Courts are aware of their own statistics, and they are knowingly allowing a large percentage of defendants free without proper assurances to guarantee their reappearance in Court. When a Judge sets a 10% to the court bond, they are deceiving the public. The public falsely believes the defendant is posting a bond ten times larger than the actual amount reported to the community.

It is generally understood that professional bondsman maintain a success rate for their clients appearing in court of at least 98%, and a past study by the F.B.I. reported that Bail Agents apprehended over 70% of all fugitives in the U.S.A.

The Courts in effect, are allowing thousands of open cases to remain in “failure to appear” status, some for years. Needless to say, the Prosecution is postponed while the cases are allowed to deteriorate. Worse, the victims are forced to wait for their own personal closure, and the public is again misled, this time, as to the amount of open cases the court truly has.

Why does it appear that the Courts are seemingly protecting the defendants of a criminal case, over society’s wishes? Using their own numbers, when the Court accepts bail bonds other than a Professional Surety bond, they are already aware that a strong percentage will not come back to court on their own accord.

The Courts should be required to return to utilizing the Professional Surety Pre-Trial release system; it enables the industry to be self supporting, saving the taxpayers millions of dollars. The small misdemeanor bonds had provided a major part of the funding needed to sustain this system, now the public is getting hit with unnecessary expenses. Missouri Law Enforcement Agencies cannot afford Warrant and Fugitive Bureaus to combat this problem.

When the Court accepts a 10% of a bond, they accept the bond from any person who wants to pay the fee and assume the role as surety. They can be a convicted felon, a government employee, a law enforcement officer, an elected official or a bankrupt individual. They can be the defendant’s attorney, who in turn files an assignment on the cash posted for their benefit. (Note this interesting statue: Nothing in sections 374.695 to 374.775 shall be construed to prohibit any person from posting or otherwise providing a bail bond in connection with any legal proceeding, provided that such person receives no fee, remuneration or consideration therefor.) Does this law prevent attorneys from filing an assignment on monies deposited with the court?

Are these bonds ever set to judgment? If so, who is responsible to pay the School System the forfeited funds?

The question is “who and what is the Surety”?
· The defendant?
· Is it the person paying the money and signing the paperwork to indemnify the full amount to the Court?
· Should the Court itself assume the responsibility, for ignoring State Law and accepting bonds from unqualified and unlicensed bondsman?

By what standards do the Courts use to qualify individuals to be able to post 10% to the Court Bonds, by State Statue, there are restrictions being ignored by the Courts. For example;
· 374.702. No person shall engage in the bail bond business as a bail bond agent or a general bail bond agent without being licensed as provided in sections 374.695 to 374.775.
· 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.
· Any person who is convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. For any subsequent convictions, a person who is convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a class D felony.
· 374.710. 1. Except as otherwise provided in sections 374.695 to 374.775, no person or other entity shall practice as a bail bond agent or general bail bond agent, as defined in section 374.700, in Missouri unless and until the department has issued to him or her a license, to be renewed every two years as hereinafter provided, to practice as a bail bond agent or general bail bond agent.

Just how long will these types of bonds continue? Maybe, the Industry should attempt to get an official Opinion from the Missouri Attorney General!

My personal request to the Department of Insurance’s appointed Committee is the same as I recently wrote, please don’t try to make cleaning up the Bail Industry the priority, please help put surety bonds back on our plate, then together we can fix the problems. The precedence should be;
1. Pass a law allowing Surety Bonds posted will act the same a Cash Bond.
2. Slow down or stop 10% to the Court Bonds.
3. All General Agents should qualify their assets to the Courts, stop the Ten Thousand dollar General, then a lot of the Bail Agents who are causing problems will follow them.

Everyone should agree that General Agents are totally responsible for the professional bail industry in Missouri therefore they should be answerable for the defense of the bail bond profession in Missouri.

Bail agents are an intricate and necessary element of the bail industry, but because of the wasted efforts and great expense in the past to organize them into a unified voice, via a professional bondsman organization, I personally have concluded that the following;

A single Bondsman Association in Missouri is the only answer to save the Industry. We must unify the agents together and become a recognized voice for the industry. The General Agents need to form an Association of General Bail Agents with the bail agents as a sub-group.

If we do not join together now, the professional bail industry in Missouri is over as we know it.

Ben Hilton, GBA
P.O. Box 1857
291 N. Adams Street
Lebanon, MO 65536

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Public Hearing on Bail to be Held in Jeff City

The following is a press release issued by the DIFP regarding the fourth and final public hearing on the bail bond industry in Missouri.

The state Insurance Department has scheduled four public hearings to review Missouri’s laws and regulations governing the state’s bail bond industry.

John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP), has appointed a 15-member committee to assist the department in the review process. The committee consists of members of the Missouri legislature, law enforcement, the bail bond industry and the Missouri court system.

The fourth public hearing will be held in Jefferson City on Nov. 10 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Capitol, House Hearing room #7.

Members of the public and the bail bond industry are invited to speak at the hearing. Please call the DIFP in advance to arrange a speaking time, 573-751-2562.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bondsmen Under Investigation in Springfield

Springfield, MO- Police are investigating several bail bondsmen after a family reported that the bondsmen kicked in their door. According to reports filed by KRCG-TV, KOLR-TV, and the Springfield News-Leader, the bondsmen forcefully entered a home with weapons drawn. A woman and three children were reportedly home at the time. They said the bondsmen were looking for a man named Andrew whom the family did not know. News reports indicate that the bondsmen then went to a home next door and a woman left with them. The incident remains under investigation and the names of the bondsmen have not been released.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Next Public Hearing to be Held in Springfield

The following is a press release by the DIFP announcing the public hearing scheduled for next Tuesday in Springfield:

The state Insurance Department has scheduled four public hearings to review Missouri's laws and regulations governing the state's bail bond industry.

John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP), has appointed a 15-member committee to assist the department in the review process. The committee consists of members of the Missouri legislature, law enforcement, the bail bond industry and the Missouri court system.

The third public hearing will be held in Springfield on Nov. 3 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Missouri Department of Conservation building located at 2630 N Mayfair, Springfield.

Members of the public and the bail bond industry are invited to speak at the hearing. Please call the DIFP in advance to arrange a speaking time, 573-751-2562. After hearing public testimony, the committee will meet from noon to 2 p.m.

The last of the four public hearings is scheduled for:
Capitol Hearing room #7 - Jefferson City, Tuesday Nov. 10

House Bill 577, passed by Missouri lawmakers and signed by Gov. Nixon, requires the DIFP to submit survey results to the legislature by Jan. 6, 2010.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Study Committee to Meet in St. Louis

The next public hearing of the bail bond industry study committee will be held this Tuesday, October 27, 2009, at the MODOT building located at 1590 Woodlake Drive, Chesterfield, MO. The hearings will be conducted from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.

The DIFP requests that individuals wishing to testify call 573-751-2562 at least one day prior to hearing. Written testimony and comments will also be accepted.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bail Industry Study Committee to Hold Public Hearings

The bail bond industry study committee (required by law passed last year) will hold public hearings at the following locations.

October 20, 2009 - 600 NE Colburn Rd, Lee Summit, MO (MODOT Building)
October 27, 2009 - 1590 Woodlake Drive, Chesterfield, MO (MODOT Building)
November 3, 2009 - 2630 N. Mayfair, Springfield, MO (Conservation Southwest Regional Office)
November 10, 2009 - Jefferson City, MO (Capitol)

Hearings will be conducted from 9:00-12:00.

The DIFP requests that individuals wishing to testify call 573-751-2562 to schedule a time and location at least one day prior to hearing. Written testimony and comments will also be accepted.
To receive all information regarding the work of the committee, you can join the list-serve sponsored by the DIFP at this address: Scroll down to "Bail Bond Study" and enter your email address.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bondsman Injured in Hit and Run

Bondsman Brenda Dischbein, of Farmington, was injured last week when she tried to apprehend Norman Forrester. According to the Daily Journal, Forrester has been charged with first degree assault for striking Dischbein with his vehicle.

Forrester stopped his vehicle on a roadway near his residence. Dischbein approached his vehicle to speak to him. Forrester opened the driver’s side door to his vehicle knocking her back. Forrester then put his vehicle in reverse and struck her with the driver’s front fender as he was backing up. Dischbein sustained injuries to the arm and wrist, left ankle and a strained lower back.

Forrester bond is set at $75,000 cash only. At this time, he remains a fugitive.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pretrial Wants to Abolish Private Bail

Below is a video clip taken from the NAPSA (National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies) website advertising its annual conference this year called “Game Plan for Change.” The video reviews key speakers at last year’s conference. Rep. Fred Kessler of Wisconsin was applauded when he said, “We can abolish professional bail bonding in the United States.”

PBUS (Professional Bail Agents of the United States) recently alerted its members saying: “…The National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Pre-Trial Justice Institute (PJI) have formed an alliance, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the U.S. Department of Justice to complete a no-cost technical analysis of current jail population. You know that they will find or create issues of jail overcrowding and that will lead them to recommend the creation of or expansion of a PTR program. (PBUS interpretation: GET RID OF THE BAIL AGENT!)”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Out of State Bounty Hunters Arrested in MO

Two bounty hunters from Mississippi are scheduled to be arraigned today in Scott County, Missouri, after being charged with engaging in fugitive recovery without a license. Timothy Fugate (pictured at right) and Jeremy McNeil are both featured on their website,, advertising their services for fugitive recovery. Both also claim to be law enforcement officers.

According to this report on KFVS-TV, the men hit the wrong house in Sikeston, Mo, in the middle of the night, searching for a fugitive. Weapons were drawn and the two men were later arrested by local authorities after the home owners called 911.

Fugate and McNeil posted $1,000 bonds for unlawful acts under RSMO 374.789, a class D felony.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

KC Bondsman Charged

According to this report at KCTV-5, bondsman Michael Knight, of Kansas City, faces a felony charge of unlawful use of a weapon and a misdemeanor charge of assault 3rd degree. The report states that Knight had a concealed weapon, although his conceal permit was expired. The charges were filed after Knight allegedly assaulted a 19 year old man while trying to repossess his vehicle. Additionally, the article stated that Knight was repossessing the wrong vehicle as the VIN did not match.

Knight posted a $15,000 surety bond through his general agent, Frank Kincaid.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

AR-Judges Ban Credit Bonds, Use 10% Bonds

The issue of credit bonding has been ongoing discussion in Arkansas for several years. Yesterday, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that the issue has now prompted a federal lawsuit and crippled the Saline County bail bond businesses.

Every judge in Saline County signed a court order earlier this year banning credit bonding. Then earlier this month, the sheriff's office began collecting 10% cash-bonds, (called sheriff’s bonds). The 10% bonds provide a new revenue source for the county because Arkansas law allows the county to keep 10% of the amount collected as a processing fee.

Bondsman John Chism has filed the federal lawsuit against every judge in the county, the prosecutor, the sheriff and the jail chief, saying the ban and the use of sheriff's bonds on felony cases have effectively stripped his company of its license without due process, resulting in a civil-rights violation.

Financing the bail bond premium has long divided bail-bond companies and the legal community. Judges, lawmen and prosecutors often argue that suspects charged with serious crimes are sprung from jail after paying too little. There is also debate about whether state law forbids credit bonding. Arkansas law says the "premium or compensation for giving bond or depositing money or real property as bail on any bond shall be ten percent (10%), except that the amount may be rounded up to the nearest five dollar amount." The law is silent on when the premium is required to be collected.

Upset by financed premium, Pulaski County deputy prosecutor Barbara Mariani subpoenaed records to find out how three particular defendants got out of jail despite hefty bails. In 2006, a convicted killer awaiting trial on a new murder charge was freed on a $250,000 bond. She wondered how Armon Houston, who was assigned a public defender after claiming he was indigent, came up with $25,000 - the 10 percent premium. Mariani learned Houston was freed after someone posted just $3,000 bond. Records didn't indicate that the remaining $22,000 was ever paid, Mariani said. "There's no contract, no monthly payments," she said about the bail-bond records she's reviewed. So even though some companies say they are arranging financing, they appear to be just discounting the bond. That's illegal, Mariani said. This issue has prompted Mariani to ask judges on more serious cases to require the full 10 percent premium upfront.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Services for Glenn Beazley

Our friend and colleague, Glenn Edward Beazley, 51, of Jefferson City, passed away Sunday, June 21, 2009, at St. Mary’s Health Center.

Glenn was an agent and supervisor for Peak Bail Bonds. Glenn previously worked in law enforcement. He was the youngest police officer in Missouri history. He started as a police officer in Bland and Hermann, Missouri in 1976. He also worked for the Jefferson City Police Department and the Cole County Sheriffs Department. He was a Lieutenant in charge of the Cole County Narcotics Task Force. Glenn taught a concealed weapons course and was a specialized instructor for law enforcement and various agencies. He owned Monitored Release House Arrest. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and looking for arrowheads. Most of all, Glenn enjoyed spending time with his family.

He is survived by his wife Janet and four children: Katlyn, Kelly, Austin, and Haylee. He is also survived by his father: William Beazley of Jefferson City; one brother: Terry Beazley of Wardsville; one sister: Jan Shields (husband Eddie) of Alton, Missouri; two brother-in-laws: Nathan Ament and Matthew Ament both of Jefferson City.

Friends will be received from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Thursday at the Houser-Millard Funeral Home. Funeral Services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Friday, June 26, 2009, at the Houser-Millard Funeral Home, with Joe Bonchonski officiating. Interment will follow in Hawthorn Memorial Gardens. Expressions of sympathy may be made to the Glenn Beazley Children’s Educational Fund. Arrangements are under the direction of HOUSER-MILLARD Funeral Directors, 2613 West Main Street; Jefferson City, Missouri 65109. (573) 636-3838.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Redburn Guilty of Theft

Bondsman Jackie Covey Redburn entered two guilty pleas to possession of burglary tools and Class B stealing. Redburn and her husband, Aaron Redburn, were arrested last year in Dade County for trying to steal ATVs from S&H Farm Supply. Redburn was given five years supervised probation, with a suspended imposition of sentence.

Just a few weeks before the plea, Redburn renewed her bail bond license. The DIFP and Redburn entered into a consent agreement that if Redburn was found guilty in any of the charges against her, she would voluntarily surrender her license within five days. Redburn’s license is now listed as cancelled.

Fox 2 Airs Story on Felons in the Industry

Fox 2 , St. Louis, recently aired another story concerning the bail bond industry in Missouri. The reporter interviewed Jerry Cox and former MO Representative Bob Behnen about their roles in passing the Lee Clause, which allows felons who have been convicted more than 15 years ago to be licensed as bail bond agents.

Cox and Lee Jackson were both members of MPBBA, the organization who lobbied for the felon provision. Ten months after the bill became law, Jackson tried to murder Cox. The reporter asked Cox, "The fact that somebody who sat on the board with you ended up trying to kill you - doesn't that prove these guys have no business in the industry?" Gerald Cox answered, "That's kind of the exception of the of the - the exception if you will. I did oppose that, the particular section of the bill. I was out voted."

Regarding the licensing of convicted felons, Behnen said, "We have a lot of people in prisons and when these people get out do we want to create another obstacle for them to get a job to get a good paying job, where they can provide for their families and hopefully stay away from a life of crime."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bondsman Files Suit Against Police Department

General bail bond agent Gerald Cox, and his son, James Cox, have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Maryland Heights, its police chief, and two of its officers. The 12 count complaint alleges defamation, slander, malicious prosecution, violation of civil rights, and tortuous interference. The lawsuit was filed in US District Court, St Louis.

The Cox men were investigated and arrested last fall by the Maryland Heights Police Department after four bounty hunters apprehended a fugitive, Leah Pinion, and her cosignor and boyfriend, Lance Peabody. The two were apprehended in a hotel and were transported to Cox’s office. Peabody’s car was also transported to the office. Several months later, the police charged Jim and Jerry Cox with burglary, kidnapping, tampering with a motor vehicle, and stealing. James Cox was additionally charged with unlawful conduct as a surety recovery agent, and Jerry Cox was additionally charged with fail to inform law enforcement of apprehension. The charges against both men were dropped earlier this year.

After their arrests, Gerald Cox and Cox Bail Bonds was suspended from writing bonds in the City of St. Louis and several other jurisdictions. The lawsuit alleges a loss of income of $174,000.

The complaint states that neither James nor Jerry Cox had instructed the bounty hunters to apprehend Lance Peabody and that neither were aware that it was occurring until after it happened, and that a valid contract existed for the payment of the bond fees charged to Lance Peabody, and paid by Peabody’s mother, Arlene Taylor. A separate written contract explaining the relationship between the bounty hunter and Cox, Inc. was also shown and explained to the detectives. The complaint also alleges that Maryland Heights Police Department further discovered that the bounty hunter and those assisting him were indeed independent contractors, and that neither Gerald nor James Cox had known what was occurring at the LaQuinta Hotel until after it had happened. The complaint further alleges that no factual basis or legal probable cause existed to seek or obtain criminal charges against Gerald or James Cox for the events which occurred at the LaQuinta Hotel, nor was there a factual basis or legal probable cause to seek or obtain criminal charges regarding the contract between Peabody and Cox, Inc.

New Coverage:
Riverfront Times
STL Post Dispatch

Previous Posts:
Charges Dropped Against Cox 5/1/2009
Cox Case in RFT 12/10/2008
Cox Case in STL Post Dispatch 11/27/2008
Bondsman Charged 11/26/2008

Sunday, May 17, 2009

FBI Charges Bondsmen & Clerk

According to this press release from the FBI, two bondsmen and a municipal court clerk have been indicted in federal court for altering court records. The indictment alleges that Wichita, Kansas Municipal Court employee, Kaylene Pottorff took bribes to change court records for the benefit of bonding agents Alicia Bell and Jessie Garland.

According to the indictment:

Pottorff worked as a collections officer for the Wichita Municipal Court. During a period from March 2004 through April 2008, she changed and removed data from the court’s computerized records system for the benefit of co-defendants Alicia Bell and Jessie Garland.
Pottorff accepted bribes from Bell and Garland, both of whom worked as bondsman agents, for falsifying the court’s computerized records.
On multiple occasions, Bell used fraudulently altered lists of active bonds from court records, together with false and fraudulent jail booking forms she created, to defraud her mother, Pearl Neal, AAA Bonding Company, and others.
On multiple occasions, Garland used fraudulently altered lists of active bonds from court records to defraud B&J Enterprises and Larry Hiebert, the bondsman and surety company on Garland’s bonds.

The investigation, which is ongoing, is being conducted by the FBI, the Wichita Police Department and the U.S. Attorney. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson and U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch are prosecuting.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SB464 Substitute Passed

A conference committee substitute for SB464 was passed by both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives. A late night negotiation last Monday between committee chairs Senator Bill Stouffer and Representative Brian Yates resulted in a compromise which stripped all of the bail bond language from the bill and instead inserted language directing the DIFP to conduct a study on the bail bond industry.

The language says:

During the legislative interim between the first regular session and the second regular session of the ninety-fifth general assembly, the Missouri DIFP shall conduct a study regarding its licensing rules and other policies and procedures governing the bail bond industry within the State of Missouri. The department, in its discretion, may hold public hearings within the state and permit testimony and input from surety insurance companies, general bail bond agents, bail bond agents, legislators, law enforcement agencies, officials from the department, and other interested parties. If public hearings are held, the director shall provide notice to all licensees licensed under sections 374.695 to 374.789 of the date, time, and location of such public hearings. The department shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the house representatives and senate insurance committees no later than January 6, 2010.

Previous Posts
House Passes SB464

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vinson Tells About Fugitive Incident

Bondsman Dave Vinson granted an interview with the Lake Sun Leader. After being found guilty of two misdemeanor offenses involving a fugitive recovery incident, Vinson told his side of the story.

Vinson told the Lake Sun Leader that he and another bondsman, Jason Dampier, had located fugitive Ronald Brown in a vehicle in Versailles. Brown turned onto a dead end street. Vinson said Dampier got out of the car and walked up to Brown’s vehicle, asking him to get out. Instead Brown threw the car into reverse and attempted to back over Dampier. Vinson said Dampier told him he heard the gears shifting and because of that was able to narrowly escape being struck by diving behind their own vehicle. Vinson had his Glock 22 .40 caliber pistol drawn. Brown pulled the car forward, this time over lawns, attempting to find a way out of the dead-end. Vinson said he fired off one round, shattering the back window of the SUV. “I fired at a location where I knew I wasn’t going to hit him. I hoped the sound of the gun, of the bullet, would scare him into stopping before someone got hurt,” Vinson said. With at least 20-feet now between them, Brown attempted to back up over Vinson and Dampier again, Vinson said. It was enough room to do real damage if Brown managed to strike his targets. This time, he managed to drive away.

Previous Posts
Vinson Found Guilty of Misdemeanors
Lake Sun-New Info on Fugitive Case
Bondsman Held After Shots Fired

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Two Men Plead Guilty in Home Invasion

Former bondsman Thaddeus Bibb entered a guilty plea last week in Jefferson County to charges related to a fugitive recovery incident. Bibb, two other bondsmen, and two unlicensed men were arrested in 2007 after forcing entry on a wrong house in Jefferson County. The couple living in the house, Garth and Melissa Myers, called police and the five men were arrested. Bibb failed to appear for bench trial last December and remained a fugitive until March. He was surrendered and held on a capias bond until his plea hearing last week. Four of the charges against him were dismissed, and according to casenet he entered a plea of guilty to felonious restraint, armed criminal action, and burglary. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 29th.

Three of the other men, Rudolph Whiston, Brandon Morgan and Steven Morgan have also been sentenced. Last week, Rudolph Whiston pleaded guilty to two counts of felonious restraint and property damage. He was placed on five years probation. Earlier this year, former bondsman Steven Morgan pleaded guilty to felonious restraint, armed criminal action and property damage. The judge sentenced him to five years in DOC and suspended execution of sentence and placed him on five years supervised probation. Steven Morgan is no longer licensed as a bail bond agent after he let his license lapse. Brandon Morgan pleaded guilty to two counts of felonious restraint and acting as a surety recovery agent without a license. Brandon Morgan was sentenced to three years in DOC, execution of sentence was suspended, and he was placed on five years supervised probation.

Bondsman Randall Avett is scheduled to go to trial in July.

The Myers have filed a civil action against all five men, AAA Bail Bonds, and Rick Adams.

Story on KSDK
Previous Posts
Bibb Wanted for Failing to Appear
Three Bondsmen Arrested

Vinson Found Guilty of Misdemeanors in Fugitive Case

Bondsman David Vinson was found guilty of two misdemeanor offenses, 3rd degree assault and property damage, in a fugitive recovery incident in Morgan County. Vinson had originally been charged with five felonies. The Lake Sun Leader reported that Vinson shot at a vehicle, shattering the back glass. The initial news accounts reported that defendant Ronald Brown, 25, was facing multiple charges passing bad checks and driving with a suspended license. He was scheduled to appear in court. Versailles Assistant Police Chief James Burkhart said Brown had sent a 'significant other' into court for him to make an excuse why he couldn't be there while Brown was outside in his vehicle circling town. When Vinson found him, they took off in a car chase through Versailles, Burkhart said. Vinson managed to corner Brown on a dead-end street. There was yelling, Burkhart said, which prompted nearby residents to call police. Vinson fired his gun at Brown's vehicle. Vinson said that the vehicle had been backing toward him and he acted in self defense. As officers were arriving, Brown escaped by driving through a resident's yard.

Snyder's Case Dismissed

Charges against bondsman Bill Snyder have been dismissed. Snyder was charged last fall with forging a power of attorney for a bail bond executed under Ben Hilton’s authority in Camden County.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bail Bond Language in HB577

Yesterday, bail bond language appeared in the fourth bill this session. Executive session was held on HB577 and the committee voted to insert the bail bond language into an existing bill heard by the committee. The bill will next go to the full Missouri Senate for a vote. The bill language modifies existing law as follows:

In addition to the existing statutes concerning the minimum qualifications for bail bond licensure, the applicant must:

For a general bail bond agent licensed prior to August 28, 2009, the applicant or, if the applicant is a corporation, each officer of the corporation has completed at least two years as a bail bond agent and the applicant possesses liquid assets of at least ten thousand dollars, along with an executed assignment of ten thousand dollars to the state of Missouri;

For a general bail bond agent licensed on or after August 28, 2009, the applicant or, if the applicant is a corporation, each officer of the corporation has completed at least four years as a bail bond agent and the applicant possesses liquid assets of fifty thousand dollars, along with an executed assignment of such fifty thousand dollars to the state of Missouri.

The general bail bond agent shall execute an assignment to the state of Missouri in the amount of five thousand dollars for each additional bail bond agent newly licensed under the authority of the general bail bond agent on or after August 28, 2009; except that, the general bail bond agent shall not be required to assign five thousand dollars for any agent licensed under the authority of the same general bail bond agent prior to August 28, 2009.

The assignments required by this section shall become effective upon the applicant violating any provision of sections 374.695 to 374.789, and shall be in the form and executed in the manner prescribed by the department. The director may require by rule conditions by which additional assignments of assets of the general bail bond agent may occur when the circumstances of the business of the general bail bond agent warrants additional funds; except that, such additional funds shall not exceed fifty thousand dollars.

374.755 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 in a criminal prosecution under any state or federal law for a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude. A suspended imposition of sentence is not required to be disclosed for licensing or renewal purposes and shall not serve as a basis for denial of licensure.

(This bail language also appears in SB464. See earlier post.)

SB464 Passed by House

Yesterday, SB464 was passed by the Missouri House of Representatives with a vote of 129-15. The bill then was taken up by the Senate and they did not approve the changes made by the House. The bill will be taken up again by the House, who will recede or grant a conference committee on the bill changes. Both chambers will then have to approve any recommendations made by the conference committee.

The major bail bond provisions of this bill are:

1) The Lee Clause is repealed, but this version of the bill specifically details that an SIS is not considered a conviction, is not required to be disclosed, and shall not serve as a basis for denial of licensure.

2) Requires that an agent be licensed for 4 years before becoming eligible to become a general agent or the officer of a bail bond corporation.

3) Requires general agents licensed after August 28th, to assign a $50,000 CD.

4) Requires general agents to assign a $5,000 CD for each new agent licensed after August 28th. In this bill, the language has been clarified to exclude the $5,000 CD for any agent working before or on the date the bill becomes law.

Charges Dropped Against Bondsmen and Bounty Hunters

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that all charges against Gerald Cox and his son, James Cox, have been dismissed. According to the report, criminal charges were also dropped against Morris A. Davis and Kevin Grillion. Charges were still pending against two others, Dennis Weatherford and Erik A. Nolan.

James Cox is quoted in the article, “My father and I maintained our innocence from the beginning. Due to professionalism of the St. Louis County prosecutor's office, they saw our way."

Monday, April 27, 2009

SB464, Bail Language

Bail bond language appeared in another bill last week, SB464. It is similar to the language in the HB628 and HB777, with several new language changes.

1) The Lee Clause is repealed, but this version of the bill specifically details that an SIS is not considered a conviction, is not required to be disclosed, and shall not serve as a basis for denial of licensure.

2) Requires that an agent be licensed for 4 years before becoming eligible to become a general agent or the officer of a bail bond corporation.

3) Requires general agents licensed after August 28th, to assign a $50,000 CD.

4) Requires general agents to assign a $5,000 CD for each new agent licensed after August 28th. In this bill, the language has been clarified to exclude the $5,000 CD for any agent working before or on the date the bill becomes law.

This is a Senate bill which was amended in the House Insurance Committee. The bill is currently in the Rules Committee.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bounty Hunters are Not State Actors

The US Court of Appeals, Tenth District, recently handed down a decision regarding bounty hunters. The court was asked to rule on whether bounty hunters constitute state actors for purposes of the Fourth Amendment when they conduct a search in the course of seeking out a bail jumper. The bounty hunters apprehended a fugitive at the home of his girlfriend. During the apprehension, the bounty hunters noticed a loaded firearm, meth, and drug paraphernalia. The bounty hunters then called the police and the fugitive was additionally charged with the drugs and firearm. On appeal, the defendant claimed that the search of his girlfriend’s home was not a legal search, because the bounty hunters were state actors. The appeals court ruled that the search and discovery of the weapon and drugs was not a state action. The court applied a two-prong test to determine if the bounty hunters were state actors:

1) Whether the government knew of the bounty hunter’s conduct
2) Whether the party performing the search intended to assist law enforcement efforts or to further his own ends

The court ruled that “the police in no way instigated, orchestrated or encouraged the search” and only knew about the search after the fact and the bounty hunters were there on a legitimate, independent action and not to assist a law enforcement effort.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bail Bond Language Now in HB777

The Insurance Policy Committee, chaired by Rep. Brian Yates, recently added the bail bond language contained in HB628 to an insurance bill, HB777. The bill was reported out of committee yesterday. After a bill is reported out of the committee, it makes its way to a full vote of the chamber. The bail language in the bill seeks to:

Raise the CD requirement to $50,000 for any new general agent who becomes licensed after 8/28/2009, and additionally requires that “the general bail bond agent shall execute an assignment to the state of Missouri in the amount of five thousand dollars for each bail bond agent licensed under the authority of the general bail bond agent on or after August 28, 2009." The bill also seeks to repeal the Lee Clause, which would delete the 15-year look-back on felony convictions.

The following is my opinion of the bail bond language contained in HB777, formerly known as HB628. I respect Bail Bond Agent Cooper for his tenacity in writing a bill and stepping up to offer a solution. With that said, here is what I think about the specific language:

I support the section of the bill which offers the repeal of the Lee Clause. I think it is reprehensible that a man like Lee Jackson, who served 20 years for 8 felony convictions, was eligible to get a bail bond license.

I do not understand the language in Cooper’s bill in which he amends the current language to say: "(A) bail bond agent shall hold the license for at least four years prior to owning or being an officer of a licensed general bail bond agent.” Does this mean that after possessing a bail bond agent’s for 4 years there is a provision in which you can “own” a general agent? How does one do that? I had hoped the language would have been clarified to say that one must possess an agent’s license for 4 years before becoming eligible to apply for a general agent’s license or becoming eligible to be a corporate officer of a licensed bail bond corporation.

New general agents licensed after August 28, 2009, must possess liquid assets of fifty thousand dollars, along with an executed assignment of fifty thousand dollars to the state of Missouri. The bill does not define what is considered “liquid assets of $50,000”and does not specify who determines the sufficiency of the liquid assets. The bill states that in addition to the “liquid assets,” one must execute an additional assignment of $50,000. Financial experts classify liquid assets as cash or any asset that can be converted into cash within a period of twenty days with little or no loss in value. Money in bank accounts, money market funds, and US Treasury bills are examples of liquid assets. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real estate are not generally considered “liquid.” The fine print could certainly be interpreted to mean a general agent must possess $100,000 in cash-type assets in addition to any fixed assets the general agent may pledge to the local court.

The $5,000 per agent provision seems ambiguous to me. The provision says: “(T)he general bail bond agent shall execute an assignment to the state of Missouri in the amount of five thousand dollars for each bail bond agent licensed under the authority of the general bail bond agent on or after August 28, 2009.” Although I have been told that the intent of this provision is that any general agent, who signs a new agent after August 28th, will have to deposit $5,000, the provision could be interpreted to mean that all general agents in the state could be required to deposit $5,000 for each agent licensed on the date the bill becomes law.

Without careful crafting of new law, vague language can lead to unintended consequences. I hope those responsible for spearheading this bill will recognize that results are what you expect, and consequences are what you get.

Consultant Says Bondsmen are Parasites

The Springfield News-Leader recently published a follow-up report on the county’s backlog of outstanding warrants and the proposed termination of the book-and-release program. As previously discussed, Greene County has a backlog of 19,000 outstanding warrants. Several proposals have been suggested to address this problem. The book-and-release policy, enacted in 2005, allows some suspects to be booked and then released pending application of warrants. Critics of the program say that outstanding warrants have skyrocketed and criminals are released before the ink can dry on their arrest reports.

Greene County retained a consultant from California, Alan Kalmanoff, to review the county’s judicial system. While Judge Conklin suggested the suspension of the book-and-release policy which allows low-level offenders to leave the jail after they are booked without posting bonds, Kalmanoff does not think restoring these bonds in Greene County is the answer to the problem. He described bondsmen as "a parasite on the county's criminal justice system. They get nobody to come to court that wouldn't come anyway, and they catch virtually nobody that doesn't come to court."

Bondsman Rick Arnall was interviewed by the reporter and said that he disagreed with Kalmanoff’s assessment and said, "It's all about accountability. If you've got this person out on bond, our people are gonna be there.” He also added that when the defendant does not show up, bondsmen do go find them and return them to the court’s jurisdiction.

In a previous article, Judge Conklin said that bondsmen provide a needed accountability -- ensuring the majority of their customers meet court dates and don't abscond --that outweighs other concerns. "The bond system is not perfect," he said...."But they provide a service to the community at no cost for taxpayers."

Previous Post
Greene Co. Bond Policy Reconsidered

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hearing Held on HB628

A hearing was held yesterday on HB628. Two people testified on the bill, Bart Cooper speaking in favor and Marilyn Turner speaking in opposition.

The bill seeks to raise the CD requirement to $50,000 for any new general agent who becomes licensed after 8/28/2009 and requires a $5,000 CD assignment by the general agent for each new agent licensing under his/her authority after 8/28/2009. The bill also seeks to repeal the Lee Clause, which would delete the 15-year look-back on felony convictions. See the full bill text here. (New language is in bold print, while proposed deletions are bracketed.)

If you would like to comment on any provision of HB628, it is now in the Professional Registration Committee. The committee will hold executive session on the bill at a later meeting. The committee could pass the bill as it is currently worded, amend the bill, or take no action on the bill. For a quick refresher, here is a flowchart on how a bill becomes a law.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Experienced Bounty Hunters Profiled

Utah-An interesting article about bounty hunting was recently printed in The Standard-Examiner of Ogden, UT. Steve Mills, who has been in the business twelve years, and Hyrum Lambert, who has been in the business six years, said that business is becoming more dangerous. Mills said that in the first few years he never had to draw his weapon, but now he must be more cautious because more people have become aggressive during pickups. They attribute some of the increased aggression to the use of methamphetamine. The team also said that they have only had to kick in one door in since they began working as bounty hunters.

The bounty hunters shared a few of their trade secrets. They said that action takes a back seat to strategy, disguises and trickery. "Especially men are stupid for a pretty face," Lambert said. He has a host of online profiles on social network and dating sites that present him as a pretty woman just looking for a nice man to date. He uses the profiles to groom the bail jumpers and learn their locations.

Read the whole interview here along with an eleven minute video.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fox 2 Airs Story on Bail Industry in MO

Channel 2-Fox News aired a story last night concerning the bail bond industry in Missouri. The report featured a fugitive recovery agent kicking in a door to look for a fugitive. Later, the report looked into the Lee Clause and its effects on the industry. The report detailed the MPBBA’s role in drafting the 15-year felon provision in legislation to allow Lee Jackson to be eligible to become a general bail bond agent The report stated “But the State of Missouri trusted violent felon Virgil Lee Jackson after he pushed for a new law five years ago. It allowed felons to be bail bondsmen. The felony just has to be older than 15 years and Jackson's offenses including two burglaries, unlawful use of a weapon and a first degree robbery were all more than 20 years ago.…So why did Missouri Legislators listen to a felon like Jackson? At the time, he was part of the Missouri Professional Bail Bond Association. According to MO records, the Association, and its members, contributed at least $1,300 to the bill's sponsor - former Missouri Representative Robert Behnen. The new law is even known today as the Lee clause -- named after Lee Jackson.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

News from Other States

AZ-Channel 5-KPHO of Phoenix, reported that bondsman Dana Schnell set up a successful sting operation to "con" a con man into custody after he failed to appear on the $70,000 bond posted by Schnell. The fugitive is accused of cheating more than 20 people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a mortgage scam.

Schnell convinced fugitive, Jeffrey Herald, that he was an old family friend and was willing to loan Herald some much needed cash to go to Las Vegas. Schnell agreed to meet Herald at his daughter's apartment then drive to the bank to hand over the cash. When they stepped out of the car authorities moved in and arrested Herald. Scnell told reporters, "When we got out and detectives pulled up his face expression was unreal. I'm sure it is the same expression as other people he conned when they found out they were not getting money."

NC- WRAL, in Raleigh, North Carolina, hosted a segment in which viewers could ask questions of Mark Cartret, president of the North Carolina Bail Agents Association. Some of the submitted questions included: How do bonds work? Is your job really like on TV? Can you carry a gun? Read the full interview here.

FL-The Orlando Business Journal reports that Florida bondsmen are upset that about $3 billion of the $787 billion federal stimulus bill will be spent on expanding the pretrial release system. “You have a private industry in Florida that doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime, and you’re going to replace that with a government-run program using tax dollars?” said Mike Snapp, owner of Mike Snapp Bail Bonds in Orlando. Debbie Jallad, president of Orlando-based Accredited Surety & Casualty Co. Inc., said dedicating more funds to government pretrial release programs is a poor use of taxpayer dollars when the budgets of other programs are ­being cut.

MN-Two Minnesota bondsmen have been charged with felony burglary and four related misdemeanor offenses for entering a home and handcuffing the wrong person. According to a report from the Rochester Post-Bulletin, the two bondsmen knocked on the door and handcuffed the man after he opened the door. According to police, the bondsmen were looking for a 26-year-old black man; however, the man they handcuffed was a 57-year-old white man. The bondsmen released the man after neighbors confirmed that they had the wrong man and the man they were looking for had never lived in the apartment.

CO-News Channel 7, in Denver, reports that a bondsman was arrested for criminal trespass for kicking in the door of a reported bond co-signer. According to the report, police say the apartment is leased by a co-signer of a bond, but that co-signer doesn't live with the wanted parties and that co-signer was not home at the time of the incident.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

MS-Seven Bondsmen Charged with Kidnapping, Robbery

Mississippi-A bizarre bail bond story is developing in Picayune, MS. The story began back in December 2008, when a bail bond agent and a convicted felon were arrested for allegedly committing armed robbery while returning a defendant to jail. According to an article in The Picayune Item, licensed agent Elisha Bourgeois, and an unlicensed convicted felon, Kenneth Maynard, robbed bail bond client Mark Harris of $50 at gunpoint after apprehending him for a warrant. The company owner, Anita Carol Pearson, said that a receipt was given for the money and the money was seized as bounty hunting fees. Investigator Donnie Saucier disagreed saying, “Any time money or goods are taken from a person by force and against their will, it’s robbery, if people want to leave receipts for their robberies, then that fine with us.”

After the story ran in The Picayune Item, four other alleged victims came forward and reported similar stories of being kidnapped, at times with the use of a weapon, handcuffed and robbed of money and belongings. In January, a search warrant was obtained and Pearson’s bail bond company, A-1 Outlaw Bonding.

In February, Pearson, six of her agents, and Kenneth Maynard were arrested. Anita Carol Pearson was charged with accessory before the fact kidnapping, felony conspiracy to commit extortion, felony extortion, conspiracy to commit grand robbery, accessory before the fact armed robbery, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, misdemeanor extortion and accessory before the fact felony extortion. Bondsman Sean Bourgeois was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and robbery. Bondsman Edward Johnson Jr. was charged with kidnapping, misdemeanor extortion and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Bondsman Mack Pearson was charged with misdemeanor extortion and kidnapping. Bondsman Kevin Spiers was charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and kidnapping. Bondsman Kevin Pearson was charged with felony extortion, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Bondsman Elisha Bourgeois was charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. The unlicensed felon, Kenneth D. Maynard, was charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and also arrested in December for armed robbery stemming from the same investigation.

According to the most recent article in The Picayune Item, company owner Anita Carol Pearson was additionally charged last week with conspiracy to intimidate a state witness after allegedly attempting to pay an inmate to cause physical harm to another inmate, Mark Harris, who was the initial witness in the case against her. Chief Investigator Saucier said the investigation into the most recent charges against Pearson began when he was contacted by a confidential source inside the jail who told him that Pearson had asked the source to cause Harris “bodily harm.” Two recorded phone calls involved conversations between the informant and Pearson concerning causing bodily harm to the witness in exchange for money, Saucier said. Later, investigators sent in another informant wearing a wire to talk to Pearson. Allegedly, Pearson asked the informant if she was wired or if she worked for the Sheriff’s Department. According to Saucier, after the informant indicated she was not wired nor worked for the Sheriff’s Department, $100 was given to the informant in exchange for “bodily harm” to be done to Harris.

Now this is where things get really bizarre. According to the report in The Picayune Item, Pearson was taken before Justice Court Judge Nell Y. Cowart for her initial appearance. Judge Cowart reportedly became irritated that Pearson was in shackles and asked three different law enforcement officers to remove the shackles saying, “Carol is not a criminal. She’s not going to stay here another night, that’s all I got to say.” When the officers refused to remove the shackles, Judge Cowart asked Pearson if she minded that the shackles remain on as the proceedings took place. Allegedly, just before Judge Cowart went to swear in Investigator Saucier as a witness, she told him she knew he was going to tell her a lie, and then proceeded to swear him in. According to the article, Saucier did not respond to the comment by Judge Cowart and proceeded with his testimony. Judge Cowart set Pearson’s bond at $5,000. After Pearson was escorted out of the courtroom, Judge Cowart apologized to the chief deputy and Saucier for “bucking the system."

When I read the news report, I was so stunned by the judge's bias and partiality toward a litigant and disrespect toward a witness, I decided to look up Judge Cowart’s history. She was re-elected to her present position in 2007 in an unopposed election. In 2006, Judge Cowart was issued a public reprimand, suspended for 30 days, and fined by the Mississippi Supreme Court for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct for Mississippi Judges. The court held that Judge Cowart committed misconduct by having ex parte communications with parties to a criminal case and ticket fixing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

KC Couple Allege Forced Entry on Wrong House

KCTV-Channel 5, of Kansas City, reported that three bounty hunters kicked in the wrong door in the middle of the night last week. According to the report, Brandon Conner, his wife and four children said that three men claiming to be police pounded on the door of their house while Conner called 911. Conner said the men then kicked down the door, searched through the house and then quickly left.

According to the report, the bounty hunters were looking for a fugitive who lived at the address four months earlier. Police say the bounty hunters represented ASAP Bail Bonds, Inc. The report does not identify the three men and whether they were licensed.

ASAP Bail Bonds, Inc. is a licensed bail bond corporation. According to Missouri Secretary of State’s website, the president is Raymond Plante, a licensed bail bond agent. The secretary is John Garrett, who is not licensed according to DIFP online records. ASAP is qualified in the 16th Circuit to write bonds under Roche Surety and Casualty Co, Inc.

The Conners said they want stricter laws to avoid mistakes like this one and an apology.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New DIFP Director Confirmed

A press release posted on the DIFP’s website announces that John M. Huff has been confirmed by the Missouri Senate to become the Director of the DIFP.

Mr. Huff earned his bachelor's in business administration at Southeast Missouri State University. In May 1987, he earned an MBA at St. Louis University, and he graduated from the Washington University School of Law with a juris doctorate in May 1990. For the past several years, Mr. Huff has worked at Swiss Re, a leading provider of reinsurance in the industry.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Greene Co. Bond Policy Reconsidered

The Springfield News-Leader reports that Greene County justice officials are considering repealing a four-year-old policy that has become known as book-and-release. The policy, enacted in 2005, allows some suspects to be booked and then released pending application of warrants. Critics of the program say that outstanding warrants have skyrocketed and criminals are released before the ink can dry on their arrest reports. Book-and-release has also been blamed for all but eliminating criminals' fear of jail time.

Under the new proposal, the jail would discontinue its book-and-release policy, and begin using a probable cause bond schedule. Under the schedule, suspects arrested for certain crimes are automatically eligible for a set bond amount, even though no charges are filed. If the prisoner chooses, he or she can contact family or a bondsman and post bail.

Discussing the proposal, Judge Dan Conklin said that bondsmen provide needed accountability -- ensuring the majority of their customers meet court dates and don't abscond --that outweighs other concerns. "The bond system is not perfect," he said. "It's not without its warts; there are opportunities for mischief. But they provide a service to the community at no cost for taxpayers."

The proposed changes will undergo further discussion.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More Guest Commentary: How to Improve the Bail Industry

The following is guest commentary submitted by Tim Bruce, a licensed General Agent from the Springfield area.

Reality Check

As I have been reading every ones comments and suggestions, it amazes me at just how many agents and General agents contradict themselves. The old (Pot calling the kettle black). From financing and no money down bonds to offering rebates, many of the ones complaining are some of the very ones doing just that.

We would all agree that something needs to be done if we are interested in the long term stability of our industry, but we cannot and will not truly stand together to effectively do something to help ourselves. The only Association I was once a member of was only in place for a few members to try and back door and sneak legislation through that would only benefit them and Insurance Companies. Had it not been for Angela Parks and a few others who were keeping track of what was going on, legislation could have passed and none of us would have known anything about it until it was too late.

To try and organize all the Agents statewide is a very commendable and hopeful thought. I assure you though that it will never happen. (Example> Each and every County and each and every Judge in this state does things differently and by their own rule) Procedures are done differently according to the interpretation of rules by each individual Judge, Prosecutor, Sheriff and even the Bail Bond Agents.

Several years ago, myself and many of the local agents in my area got together and jointly and adamantly decided to raise our minimum fees, addressed discounting and financing fees, and raised all failure to appear bonds to 20%. That very afternoon, two agents walked across the street to the jail and one wrote a bond by discount and the other by financing with low down and low weekly payments.

If you cannot even get the local agents in your prospective area to agree and cooperate, then how do you even remotetly think you can organize agents and companies statewide?
As much as I hate the Government even slightly getting involved in my business, unless the rules of policy and proceedure are point blank and enforced, you will never get the agents and companies to comply.

I remember what it was like being a brand new agent. I starved to death for the first 16 months. Now with many Counties implementing the catch and release policy and the mass R.O.R. policies by allot of Courts it is even hard for exsiting agents to make a living. To make matters even worse for those agents many Generals chose to impliment what I call the Ice theory flooding the state with multiple agents. This works out great for the General as he/she makes 50% of every agent. Unfortunately for the agent many Generals put multiple agents in the same area and not only does the agent have to compete with other companies, they also have to compete with thier own company. I do not believe in stacking agents. I would rather have an agent make a good living and write quality bonds, than to have high volume profits on questionable and high risk bonds. (make sense?)

In my opinion, If the General Agent puts an agent in situations where he/she is struggling to make a living. The responsibility of the agents business ethics, proceedures and questionalbe bond writing should fall on the General that allows it. If as a General, you cannot control the proceedures followed by your agent, you simply get ride of them. If you as a General allow the agent to premium write, finance, undercut and conduct themselves in the manner in which you allow. Then by all means, do not complain about the down fall of this industry and do not put all the blame on your agents. As a General, if you are into high volume bonds rather than quality. If you put pressure on your agents to write more bonds,then accept the concequenses that comes with the added stress to your agents.

If you truly want to change this industry for the better and you truly want to have each and every agent and General Agent on the same page, then unfortunately you are going to have to have someone put in place rules and regulations that forces all to follow. Les Hogue seems to be an honorable man, and from speaking with him, it seems he truly wants to clean this industry up.

Why would it be such an impossible task to maybe sit down with Les Hogue, the Dept. of Insurance,and whomever the new director turns out to be and impliment policy and proceedures to enforce many of the laws already on the books to work towards cleaning this industry up? I am not an advocate putting anyone out of work or preventing anyone from going to work, but in order to change anything for the better it is the General Agents who have to get on board and clean up thier own house before they can tell anyone else how to conduct business. If everyone had to follow the same RULES then there would be no questions.

Mr. Cooper and Mr. Thomas and many others have very good points of interest but putting them all in a blog, or sitting around talking about it does absolutely nothing to change things. If you manage to get all the Generals to come together in some sort of Independant Association and actually agree on how to change things for the better, please call me, as I would be one of your biggest advocates and allie.

If I have a tire that keeps going flat and all I do is keep putting air in it. eventually it will blow out doing unknown damage. Our Industry is just that. Unil we actually fix it, eventually it will blow out and all of us will suffer.

Thanks for reading
Tim Bruce
General Agent.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Guest Letter: Opposition to Increasing the CD Assignment

Note: The following is a guest commentary submitted by Michael Thomas, a state certified trainer for initial education and CE. Thomas is also a general agent in Missouri.

First of all let me explain to those who are not familiar with the current system, what happens when a general agent puts up his or her $10,000.00 with the state. The general agent goes to the bank and buys a CD in his or her name in the amount of $10,000.00. The general then completes a General Bail Bond Agent Assignment form MO 375-0525. This form assigns the money in that CD to the State of Missouri. The bank then completes an Acknowledgement of Assignment form MO 375-0527. These forms are then sent to the State of Missouri and at that point the General agent can no longer touch the money until he has surrendered his license and his liabilities have cleared. This money can not be touched by the General Agent to pay day to day forfeitures. The DIFP is the only entity that can draw money from the CD, other than the interest it earns, as long as the Assignment is in effect.

Similarly, if a general agent were required to put up a $5,000.00 CD for each agent working under his or her authority there would be an Assignment executed for each of those agents. Again the general agent would not be able to touch that money until the Assignment is released by the state. So regardless of what your contract with the general says the money isn’t going to be released until the state allows it.

A common misconception is that this money is routinely used to pay forfeitures. That just isn’t the case. By the time this money is used by the state to pay forfeiture, the General Agent has been shut down for at least 30 days and may in fact be out of business. The courts and the DIFP expect the General Agent to pay forfeitures with other monies long before it gets to a point where the state has to take it from the CD.

Most people try to keep their money working for them by investing in stocks and bonds, CD’s, real estate, and various business ventures. CD’s have a very poor rate of return, presently 1 to 2 percent at best and is typically an investment that older individuals would use to safeguard retirement money that has already been made. Most of us in the business are younger and are not to the point in our investment portfolios where we want our money to be stagnate. If the amount of assignment is raised from $10,000.00 to $50,000.00 this money would essentially stop working for us. And since this money is used by the State as the final solution and generals can’t touch it in the event of a forfeiture, each general agent would still have to have a significant amount of cash on hand or readily accessible to pay the day to day forfeitures.

All of us are disgruntled by the influx of people into this industry and yes it is affecting our income. Not so much because of the numbers of new bondsmen but because of irresponsible bail writing. This business has always been able to separate the wheat from the chaff but it takes a little time for this to occur. Irresponsible bondsmen go broke pretty quickly and eliminate themselves. But nevertheless they adversely affect us while they are in business. If you look at the liability they incurred in the 18 to 24 months that it took to get themselves into trouble the amount is staggering. Sometimes this liability can be in the millions of dollars. Raising the Assignment from $10,000 to $50,000 would not stop these people from getting into the business and would not do anything to curtail irresponsible bond writing.

An example I use in my classes to illustrate my point follows, If a small county has 5 bondsmen in the county and typically the court averages about 5 criminals with bonds of $20,000 each month, it follows that if all things are equal, each of those five bondsmen has a fair chance of procuring one of these bonds each month and making $2,000.00. Now, if one of these bondsmen advertises that he will write bonds for little or no money down and is very lax on cosigner qualification he will end up writing all five bonds each month and collecting only a small fraction of the fee. The other bondsmen who are doing things the way they should be done don’t make a dime. It doesn’t take long for the careless bondsman to get into trouble because his liability is going through the roof. But until that liability gets to the point that he can no longer pay the forfeitures, none of the other bondsmen in the county are making any money.

The answer to the problem lies in requiring a minimum percentage be charged on each bond and then prohibiting the extension of credit by a bondsman. Until January of 2005 a Judge in Livingston county required bondsmen to swear under oath that they were not extending credit and that they had received the full premium before the bond could be written. This begins to level the playing field because a bondsman who understands the risk involved in writing the bond no longer has to compete with one who doesn’t. And the criminal is no longer able to “shop” for the best price.

Several years ago, fed up with the number of forfeitures that I received in the mail each month, I began looking for a common thread that would help me better identify a bad bond before it was written. As I looked back over several years of records I realized that about 95% of my forfeitures were from clients to whom we had extended credit. I told my agents that we would no longer extend credit on bonds. Within six months my forfeitures had dropped by 95% and the income that my agents and I were making remained virtually unchanged. Sure we wrote fewer bonds but we got all of our money up front and didn’t have collection and bounty hunting fees chipping away at our income. When a person is charged with a crime, the cheapest thing on the menu is the bond fee. Attorney’s fees and court costs are usually about equal to the full amount of the bond. When a client can’t pay the full fee, you are likely to incur a forfeiture because if he can’t pay you, he can’t pay the lawyer or the fines either and sooner or later the Judge is going to give him the ultimatum that if he shows back up in court without an attorney or his fine money, he will be put in jail and an attorney appointed for him or his fines taken out in time served.

I have never been in favor of restricting people from getting into this business. If this proposed law were in effect 14 years ago, I could have never become a bondsman much less a general agent. I feel that I turned out OK and a lot of the people this bill would prohibit from becoming bondsmen will too. It is just an un-American ideology and in this troubled economy the wrong thing to do.

I am in full agreement with Mr. Cooper on the repeal of the Lee Clause. I make no apologies for this position as I feel that persons CONVICTED of felonies should not be allowed in the bail bond or surety recovery business no matter how long it has been. I do feel however, that if the court sees fit to issue an SIS, and the felony “goes away” after completion of a probationary period, then this should not be held against the prospective applicant.

More government regulation is NEVER the answer.

Respectfully Submitted
Michael R Thomas
Thomas Training Institute

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Guest Commentary-Elevating Our Standards

Editor's Note: The following is guest commentary submitted by Randall Smith, a certified trainer for both CE and initial education. Smith is also a licensed bail bond agent.

I want to thank Agent Cooper for his commentary and editorial regarding HB 628. Opening discussion and dialogue on current issues within the industry should be on going. If we are going to elevate our standards of professionalism then we must open discussion for relevant positive change. Rest assured if we don’t someone else will. We MUST become proactive in our own industry.

Agent Cooper has made many valid comments and points regarding bail in Missouri. One of the most significant points he makes is the number and quality of agents in this industry. As a State Certified Trainer in Missouri I see people come to the 24 Hour Initial Basic Training with nearly delusional preconceptions about this industry. Mainly brought about by the media and reality TV shows.

Training in this state for the Professional Bail Agent is far less than adequate in preparing them for this complex industry. Currently we allow nearly everyone to attend a 24 hour course. Some can barely read and write, they attend, we then push them on through. They take a very easy 60 Question State Examination and receive their license. They are in NO WAY prepared for this industry.

We must elevate the standards and requirements for entering this profession by first making the training and testing requirements more standardized. We should demand a higher level of professional that enters into this business. Once licensed, the professional agent should then be required to have substantially higher CE requirements to maintain the licensure privilege. As an example, the State of New Mexico requires 120 Hours of basic training on a pass-fail basis. There are strict standards to even be accepted into their academies. Once they pass, the must sit for a 250 Question State Certifying Examination. They are issued a probationary license and must complete 100 hours of field training before they are issued a permanently renewable license with additional CE requirements. Agents in that state are highly regarded for the most part and have very similar training to law enforcement.

The tendency in this industry, (in our state), is to seek out those who offer CE Credits by merely processing the paperwork. We as true professionals should be demanding better CE training. If we represent ourselves as professionals then we should be seeking real and valuable training relevant to our industry. We MUST invest in ourselves by seeking out this training and not take short cuts just to get a license renewed. This is NOT professional practice. We as professional trainers should not allow this practice in the first place.

Mr. Cooper points out the practice of the courts issuing 10%, Cash and OR bonds. All one has to do is look at the FTA cases in those counties practicing these policies and see the number of unresolved cases. In my opinion when courts order cash or 10% bonds, they have crossed the line and now are involved in private enterprise, which is a direct conflict of local government. There is a huge amount of research that proves the viability of the bail system in reducing those FTA numbers. This stands to reason since we have a lot to loose when an FTA occurs.

Until we increase the standards of qualification in this industry and provide real relevant training I see this industry staying the same. Certainly there are many other issues and much more legislation needed. However, without seriously reconsidering the industry qualifications and training policies I do not see any viable way to address these issues. We have to make the training tough and rigorous. Only then will we be able to see a change in the level of the professional agent. New candidates should have to PASS the rigorous training program and testing before they qualify for licensure.

Finally, if we as professionals continue to tolerate impropriety, and other misconduct within the industry, then this industry will always have a "black cloud" haning over us. Another area where we need to become proactive!

Thank you again Agent Cooper for your comments. I hope the rest of us in this industry jump on board and become pro-active.

Randall E Smith, L.B.A., C.P. I., State Certified Trainer
MARC Academy of Professional Bail Agents
Randall E. Smith
Check Us Out On the Web

Monday, February 9, 2009

Guest Editorial on HB628

Editor's Note: The following is a guest editorial submitted by Bart Cooper of Bart Cooper Bail Bonds. The letter addresses the industry concerning HB628:

As many of you know, HB628 was recently introduced by Representative Brian Yates. This legislation attempts to address some of the issues now facing the bail industry in Missouri.

In recent years, our industry has undergone a transformation for the worse. Gone are the days of trust and cooperation among companies and agents, having been replaced with a new era of avarice and greed. While the future of bail in Missouri appears dim, I believe we can work together to strengthen and preserve our profession for years to come. Accordingly, I’m asking for your help in restoring professionalism and accountability in our profession. But first, let’s examine the history of bail in Missouri, and how we got where we are today.

How We Got Here

  1. The Good Old Days
    A. Traditionally, bail companies charged a minimum premium of ten percent per bond.
    B. The minimum premium was deemed necessary to cover potential losses and expenses while leaving some profit for the agent and general agent.
    C. The system worked and remained relatively stable for decades.
  2. What changed?
    A. More and more people entered the bail industry. The proliferation of agents surged with the publicity created by series such as “Dog”. With an investment of less than five hundred dollars for a two year license, people soon learned that bail offered a means to turn a quick profit. Often seen as an additional stream of income, general agents were quick to hire new agents.
    B. The proliferation of agents inevitably led to more general agents. Needing only ten thousand dollars and two years licensure as a bail agent, the number of companies exploded. The past three years alone has seen a more than thirty percent increase in general agents.
    C. Courts also began modifying their approach to bail. Faced with budgetary constraints, some courts began to look at alternative forms of release as a means of generating revenue and reducing costs (e.g. ten percent to the court, cash only and recognizance bonds).
    D. Beginning in 2005, some circuit courts eliminated local qualification requirements. If you were licensed by the state, you could execute bonds within the circuit without further qualification. Without the oversight of local circuit courts, companies were free to execute bonds regardless of whether they possessed the assets necessary to fully collateralize the bonds should they forfeit.
    E. This combination of factors created extreme pricing pressures. With more agents and companies competing for a decreasing number of clients, the notion of a minimum premium began disappearing. Desperate for cash to cover personal or business expenses, agents began discounting bonds and extending substantial amounts of credit. Underwriting standards started to take a back seat to cash flow. Some even turned to questionable or unethical practices in an attempt to achieve profit.
    F. The erosion of a decades-old pricing structure negatively impacted the industry. Reduced cooperation and respect among companies and agents became pervasive. No longer were we able to trust each other, regardless of the merit of ideas or sincerity of efforts. As the pricing structure continued to break down, undercapitalized generals became commonplace. Discounted premiums, inability to collect on promises to pay, and poor underwriting left many generals with more forfeitures than they could pay.
    G. Much like the homeowner who owes more on their home than it is worth, undercapitalized general agents were faced with a decision: work diligently (and possibly borrow money) to resolve the tens of thousands in forfeitures and save the ten thousand dollars assigned to the state, or walk away. Clearly, the system is now at a point where people choose to walk away from the ten thousand dollars rather than work to resolve much greater forfeiture losses.
    H. As more and more general agents walk away, courts are left with more judgments than the ten thousand dollar assignment can cover. Frustrated by the breakdown in the bail process, courts become increasingly dissatisfied with the professional bail industry. This dissatisfaction, coupled with the budgetary pressures noted above, lead courts to adopt alternative forms of release. With fewer bonds available, the competition increases and the cycle repeats itself.

Current State of Bail

  1. The Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP) now acknowledges that there are too many bail agents for the system to function properly.
  2. DIFP also realizes that the current deposit requirement of ten thousand dollars is never sufficient to cover losses of generals who walk away from the business.
  3. Courts are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the commercial bail industry.

Why Act Now

  1. The industry is nearing a point of catastrophic failure. Without action on our part, the DIFP and courts will be forced to act. Although we do not know exactly what these actions will entail, they could include raising the amount of assignment or altogether eliminating commercial bail.
  2. We must begin working together to control our industry. In states where commercial bail is strong, licensing requirements are also strong. Strong licensing requirements foster strong bail associations, which in turn strengthen the commercial bail industry as a whole.
  3. We are legislatively positioned to achieve results now. With support from both lawmakers and the DIFP, we are poised to reform our industry and restore professionalism and credibility.


I have proposed legislation which I believe will begin to restore professionalism and accountability to the commercial bail industry in Missouri. The legislative changes are as follows:

  1. Eliminate felons from the industry.
  2. Increase the assignment for new general agents licensed after August 28, 2009 (when the legislation takes effect) to fifty thousand dollars.
  3. Require every general agent to assign five thousand dollars to the State of Missouri any time they add an agent after August 28, 2009.
  4. Allow the DIFP to raise the assignment requirement to fifty thousand dollars for any agent should they deem it necessary (for cause).
  5. Raise the non-resident assignment to fifty thousand dollars.

I ask you to join me in promoting this legislation. While by no means a solution to all our problems, the proposed changes represent a start at attempting to address the issues before DIFP and the courts take matters into their own hands. Together we can begin restoring credibility, professionalism and cooperation in the Missouri commercial bail industry.

I look forward to discussing the proposed changes with you.

Bart W. Cooper, General Agent

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bail Bond Bill Introduced

A new baill bond bill, HB628, was introduced by Rep. Brian Yates-(R) of Lee’s Summit. The bill seeks to raise the assigned CD for new general agents. Here is a brief summary.

If the bill passes, on August 28, 2009 the following changes would occur:

1. An agent must hold an agent’s license for 4 years, prior to being eligible to become a general agent.
2. If you are a licensed general agent before 8/28/2009, your CD requirement will remain unchanged.
3. All general agents licensed after 8/28/2009 will be required to assign a $50,000 CD to the state.
4. After 8/28/2009, the general agent must execute an additional $5,000 CD for each new agent who licenses under his/her authority.
5. The director may require additional assignments of assets. Department rule will dictate when the circumstances of the business of the general bail bond agent warrants additional funds; except that, such additional funds shall not exceed fifty thousand dollars.
6. Repeals the Lee Clause. (The provision allowing a 15 year look-back on the criminal record of any license holder.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Poll Results

Missouri Bondsman sponsored a poll, asking website visitors to answer the following poll question:

Would you favor legislation to increase the assigned CD requirement to $25,000 for general agents plus $5,000 per bail bond agent?

The poll results are as follows:

101 website visitors registered a response.

26 (25%) answered: Yes, I am licensed by the DIFP, and I support an increase to $25,000, plus $5,000 per agent.
59 (58%) answered: No, I am licensed by the DIFP, and I do not support the CD increase to $25,000 and $5,000 per agent
7 (6%) responded: I am not licensed, but I would support this proposal.
9 (8%) responded: I am not licensed, but I would not support this proposal.

Overall, the visitor’s responded against the proposal at a rate of 2:1.

For feedback on the poll, visit my original post New Website Poll .

Have a new idea for a website poll, email me, or to comment on the poll results, click "comment here."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Recent Licensing Actions

The DIFP regularly reports on investigative matters resulting in voluntary fines paid by license holders to the Missouri School Fund in order to settle matters before the department. The agreement states that the license holder agrees to pay the fine without admission of violation of the law.

The following bondsmen paid voluntary forfeitures of $100 for department allegations of misrepresentation on a bail bond license application: Jerry Tibbs, Bart Cooper, Casey Clark, Warren Rogers, Tasha Streckfus, Mark Bailey, and Joseph Hill.

The department also reported voluntary fines paid by the following:

Jo Anna Ray-Allegation of failing to file a monthly affidavit as required by RSMO 374.760. $300

Lloyd Brown-DIFP allegation of failing to file a monthly affidavit as required by RSMO 374.760. $300

David Vinson-Allegation of failing to file a monthly affidavit as required by RSMO 374.760 and failing to respond in writing during a department investigation. $400

James Sheats-DIFP allegation of writing bonds while his bail bond license was expired, failing to account for all power of attorney forms and failing to remit sums due to the general agent by failing to report seven bonds written. $400

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Website Poll

For those of you who read Missouri Bondsman by email or feed reader, now is your chance to interact. Missouri Bondsman is hosting a poll on a proposal to increase the general agent’s assigned CD to $25,000 and to also require a $5,000 CD per agent working under a general agent’s authority. You can visit Missouri Bondsman to register your vote.

For those of you who have asked for a forum to discuss the issue, here’s how you can register your thoughts. Click on the “COMMENT HERE” link below this post. You can post by several log in IDs or post using your name, or anonymously. Comments are moderated for profanity or spam. There are pros and cons to any proposal, so if you have thoughts you would like to share, let the rest of the bail bond community know how you feel.

UPDATE: Please observe the posting rules. Although Missouri Bondsman encourages debate on topics of interest to the bail industry, please be aware that comments are moderated. No comments will be printed that contain spam, profanity, or libelous comments. Participatory democracy works, please do so in a civil, professional manner.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

AHC Issues Decision in Loughary Case

The Administrative Hearing Commission has issued a decision on the case of Edward Loughary, who received a notice of refusal when he filed for renewal of his bail bond license in 2007. The DIFP refused to renew Loughary’s license because he had pleaded guilty in 1993 in US District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, to mail fraud in which he admitted to falsely reporting a vehicle as stolen to his insurance company. Loughary was sentenced to two months in prison and two years supervised release. According to the AHC, Loughary did not disclose his 1993 conviction on his initial application for licensing in 2003 or on his renewal in 2005. Loughary claimed he thought he did not have to disclose convictions after 10 years. In 2006, Loughary’s conviction came to the attention of the DIFP. When Louhary applied for a renewal in 2007, the DIFP refused to renew his license.

In making its decision, the AHC ruled that Missouri Supreme Court Rule 33.17 prohibits the acceptance of surety on a bail bond if the person has pleaded guilty to a felony within the State of Missouri or the United States within the last fifteen years. The AHC noted that the word “shall” in supreme court rule removes the AHC’s discretion in considering the rehabilitation of a licensees when reviewing cases involving those with felony convictions or convictions involving moral turpitude.

DIFP Actions on Bail Licensees

The DIFP has reported the following licensing actions on its website:

The Department granted a bail bond license under special conditions to John A. Jackson, who recently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DWI in Scott County. The conditions state that Jackson must report any violation of his probation agreement, waive privacy to discuss his case with Department personnel, report successful completion of probation, and pay $100 to the Missouri School Fund.

The DIFP refused to renew the bail bond license of David D. Ingram of Platte City. According to the Department’s website, Ingram pleaded guilty in 1996 to possession of a controlled substance. The Department’s letter of refusal indicates that Ingram received a suspended imposition of sentence, which was not disclosed on his renewal application. Ingram has 30 days to appeal the DIFP’s decision.

The DIFP reports that it has granted a bail bond license under special conditions to Michael C. Miller of Rolla. According to the DIFP’s website, Miller failed to disclose misdemeanor court actions in Phelps and Webster Counties. Miller must report any violation of his probation agreement, waive privacy to discuss his case with the DIFP, report successful completion of his probation, and pay $100 to the Missouri School Fund.

The DIFP refused to renew the bail bond license of Melissa Schroeder of Cuba. The DIFP alleges that Schroeder failed to disclose that she was "found guilty" of possession of a controlled substance in Crawford County. Schroeder exercised her right to file a complaint with the Administrative Hearing Commission. Her case is scheduled to be heard on March 12th.

The Department has refused to renew Michael Cherry’s bail bond license. It is alleged that Cherry failed to disclose a 1992 suspended imposition of sentence in Cass County for felony nonsupport. Cherry has filed for a hearing before the Administrative Hearing Commission and it scheduled to be heard on March 12th.