Two operators of a bounty-hunter training school were busted yesterday for doling out phony badges to students, many of whom have lengthy rap sheets and used the credentials in carrying out violent crimes, federal authorities said yesterday.

School founder Ralph Rios and a disgraced ex-NYPD detective, Robert Neves, were nabbed for allegedly distributing more than 3,000 bogus badges through the US Recovery Bureau, a school based in Passaic, NJ, which counts accused killer Darryl Littlejohn among its graduates.

The program came on the feds' radar on June 2, 2005 when two grads with badges and criminal records barged into 26 Federal Plaza, home to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The pair claimed to be on a "fugitive task force," a law-enforcement source said.

Investigators became more alarmed when Littlejohn came under suspicion in the slaying of John Jay student Imette St. Guillen a year later. He was found to have used a badge from the school to land his job as a bouncer.

"They don't do any background checks," the source said of the school, adding that grads have been arrested for "push-in robberies, impersonating law enforcement, ripping off drug dealers and, with Darryl Littlejohn, homicide, to name but a few."

A review of 943 students of the training program turned up at least 78 convicted felons, according to court papers.

Additional reporting by Alex Ginsberg and John Doyle


MSN News - February 1, 2007 -
HONOLULU -- A woman has sued Duane "Dog" Chapman, alleging that a member of the TV bounty hunter's team threw her down a flight of stairs and broke her back while her boyfriend was being apprehended.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Audrey Emery and seeks unspecified damages. Two other plaintiffs, including the boyfriend, seek damages from the bounty-hunting team in the same lawsuit.

Emery accuses an associate of Duane Chapman of injuring her at her Pearl City apartment on Jan. 26, 2005 in the course of arresting Stuart Calistro and filming for the A&E reality series "Dog the Bounty Hunter."

"They're filming this TV segment and she is upset because you have these thugs breaking into her apartment and she doesn't want them in there, so they decide the convenient thing is to throw her down the stairs," Emery's attorney Richard Turbin said Thursday.

Duane Chapman and his wife, Beth, released a statement saying their family has become a "target of frivolous lawsuits and publicity seeking attorneys."

"We pride ourselves in making sure that everything we do is within the bounds of the law and we are confident that we did so in this case," he said. "The videotape in the television show itself demonstrates that the charges against us are baseless."

Meanwhile, Chapman is waiting for a ruling by a Mexican judge about his pending extradition in a criminal case there.

The 53-year-old reality star, currently free on $300,000 bond, has been charged under Mexican law with "deprivation of liberty" for his June 2003 capture of fugitive convicted rapist Andrew Luster, the Max Factor heir, in Puerto Vallarta.

His publicist said a decision is expected by Tuesday.



COLUMBIA NEWS SERVICE - November 14, 2006 - 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds,
George Zouvelos, a bail bondsman, looms over his desk in
downtown Manhattan. A barrier of bulletproof glass stands between him and the people who stream into his office from the nearby criminal court looking to bail out friends and relatives. As he sits them down to talk business, from the wall in back of him a poster of Al Pacino as "Scarface" glares down at the proceedings.

Zouvelos, who became a bondsman two years ago after leaving a corporate public relations job, insists that bail bondsmen contribute more to society than their seedy image suggests. Zouvelos tells the story of an old friend who was disgusted by his new career choice.

“You guys dredge the bottom of the sea,” the friend said.

But the friend changed his tune when his son was arrested for drug and gun possession and needed to post $100,000 bail.

“All of a sudden," Zouvelos said, “I go from a ground-feeding, dredging serpent to a saving mermaid.”

At a time when the oft-maligned bail bondsmen and bounty hunters are in the spotlight--bondsmen are the subject of two recent television series--Zouvelos is working to polish the image of the profession.

Zouvelos founded New York State Professional Bail Bondsmen and Agents this year to promote a cleaner image of the profession and gain some allies along the way. The association joins a number of other organizations that advocate for the nation’s 14,000 bail bondsmen and several thousand bounty hunters. Together they are trying to promote the idea that bondsmen safeguard constitutional rights while saving taxpayers money by ensuring that criminal defendants show up in court.

Duane Chapman, known as Dog and the star of the top-rated A&E reality television show “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” reflects another side of the business. Chapman, the bail industry's most prominent public face, has been arrested more than a dozen times for armed robbery and served several years in a Texas prison for murder.

He gained renown for retrieving convicted rapist and bail jumper Andrew Luster in 2003 from Mexico, where bounty hunting is illegal. Chapman was thrown in jail and, upon being bailed out, promptly fled to the United States. In September, Chapman and several associates were arrested by U.S. Marshals and are scheduled to face an extradition hearing on Jan. 18.

HBO’s documentary series "Family Bonds" chronicled the adventures of the Evangelistas, a rowdy group of relatives on Long Island whose family business is bounty hunting.

Zouvelos argues that bail bondsmen save the state hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Each defendant out on bail means one less fewer lounging in jail on the taxpayers' tab.

A 2002 study by Alex Tabarrok, a professor of economics at George Mason University, and Eric Helland, a professor of economics at Claremont-McKenna College, found that defendants bailed out by bondsmen are 64 percent less likely to become fugitives than those out on bail under the supervision of a court.

Zouvelos has even created a mission statement, which is intended, among other things, to weed out “rogue type irresponsible bail operatives” who have given the industry a bad name. A former occupant of Zouvelos’ Manhattan office had his license revoked after misappropriating more than $1 million worth of property he had taken as collateral for bail.

Leaders of other bail industry groups are also eager to root out bad behavior.

Maggie Kreins, president of the 27-year-old California Bail Agents Association, says some bondsmen in her state paid inmates to intimidate other inmates into using their services.

Though it sometimes seems that the bail industry’s image takes “two steps forward, 10 steps back,” she said that the industry was becoming more legitimate.

“We brought so much attention on things that were questionable that everyone’s on their tippy-toes,” she said.

Holly Bishop, president of the 25-year-old Washington State Bail Agents Association, says that his organization has worked with the state Legislature to institute licensing requirements for bail bondsmen and bounty hunters. Bondsmen are required to undergo FBI background checks, and bounty hunters now get the same training in arrest procedures that police officers do.

“We don’t have any people going to the wrong houses and breaking down doors anymore,” he said.

The regulation of bondsmen and bounty hunters varies widely from state to state. Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin have abolished the professions outright. The other 46 states tend to regulate bondsmen more stringently (usually through the state's department of insurance), though they are increasingly setting standards for bounty hunters as well. Typical requirements include training and not having any felony convictions. But in many areas, anyone can be a bounty hunter.

In many states, bondsmen and bounty hunters serving as their agents have tremendous license when retrieving a fugitive, including the right to break into a home without a search warrant. And most bail agreements specify that bondsmen can use all necessary force in capturing fugitives.

Mel Barth, executive director of the National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents, says that bondsmen and bounty hunters inevitably run into problems with police officers who are unaware of these rights. In 2002, Barth was himself arrested--and later acquitted--for armed robbery while recapturing two bail jumpers in Falls Church, Va.

But Barth, whose association provides education and advocacy for more than 3,000 bounty hunters nationwide, favors increased regulation and says he has no patience for colleagues who take a Wild West approach to their work.

When some students in one of his trainee classes handed out cards advertising a fugitive recovery company named Lethal Action, Barth kicked them out. And he claims his expert testimony helped obtain a 2004 manslaughter conviction against a bounty hunter who shot a Mexican immigrant in Richmond, Va., while trying to retrieve a fugitive.

“If they do the wrong thing, we’ll go against them,” he said, “because it hurts the industry, it hurts our image.”

Barth, Bishop and Kreins all single out "Dog" Chapman as a particular threat to the bail industry’s image.

“He’s a felon and he shouldn't be in this industry,” Barth said.

Yet Professional Bail Agents of the United States, the national bail bondsman association, featured Chapman as the keynote speaker at its conference in Las Vegas this February. After a speech before a packed ballroom, Chapman, sporting his trademark dark sunglasses, leather jacket and fingerless gloves, posed for photos with dozens of awestruck bondsmen.

Linda Braswell, president of the national trade group and owner of a Florida bail bonds company, generally disdains the portrayal of bondsmen as outlaws in movies like “The Hunter,” “Midnight Run” and “Pink Cadillac.” But she defends Chapman’s tactics in apprehending Luster.

“If he was able to go down there and get someone that this country wanted,” she said, “I say goody-goody because we’ve got one more sexual pervert off the streets . . . That’s our job.”



Dear Mr. Barth:

Another member that I have been acquainted with for some time was a member from Florida by the name of Gerald Lambert.

"Jerry" (as his friends called him), was a U.S. Army Ranger but left the army long ago. After leaving the bail business, he became a Nuclear Currier for the DOE but missed the action and challenge the army afforded him. I met Jerry in February 2006, while re-qualifying at a USG civilian contractor range in Nevada, preparing for my third tour in Iraq. Naturally, after discovering we both had similar background and experiences in the bail business, he and I enjoyed many entertaining tales over beers. From that location, Jerry was to deploy to Iraq for his first tour, assigned to a USG contracted CMC team responsible for locating and destroying weapons caches. He would be assigned under the same team leader I had during my first tour.

For the following several months, while I continued my training with DSS in Virginia and North Carolina, Jerry was busy running the roads day after day in what is called, "The Sunni Triangle of Death".

On Wednesday, October 11, at 1130'H, Jerry was part of a convoy traveling near Tikrit, Iraq when the lead vehicle was struck by an IED. The driver and truck commander were stuck and injured in the still smoking vehicle. In the ensuing small arms fire, the security team establishing security around the bombed vehicle and Jerry rushed to pull his comrades Charles "Chucky" Meier and Ajith Grero from the wreckage. While Jerry freed them from the
vehicle, a second IED detonated and killed Jerry instantly. Like many other men in this business, he will never receive a medal or news articles about his heroics, nor would I ever think he was seeking them. Jerry was a patriot, a husband, a friend, a brother, a teammate, and a father of five.

He will be sorely missed by all.

Sal R. Ruiz (NABEA Member 1229L)
Regional Security Office
BW/Diplomatic Security Service
APO, AE 09348

Anyone interested may make donations to his family at:

The Gerald Lambert Memorial Fund
2393 Heybourne Road
Minden, NV 89423



Palatka Daily News - August 2, 2005 -- Palatka bail bondsman, ( Danny Buchanan) was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of Aggravated Battery with a Firearm after he shot a bond jumper ( Kevin Brinson ) in the buttock, during a struggle in an attempt to apprehend the fugitive he had out on bond.

Under Florida's 10, 20, Life Law, the bondsman had to be sentenced to at least 25 years and up to life in prison for his conviction. The law says a person armed with a gun while committing a felony gets 10 years, if they fire a gun they get 20 years and if they hit someone with a bullet they get up to life.

Circuit Judge Ed Hedstrom said he didn't think the punishment was appropriate. He read from an opinion of an appellate judge, who said the Legislature has tied judges' hands in imposing minimum mandatory sentences with out giving judges discretion. Hedstrom also denied the defense's motion for a new trial.

Buchanan claimed self-defense. He said the 25 year old Brinson, a three time convicted drug felon, reached under the the driver's seat of friend L. Sessions' car, and he didn't know what he was grabbing for. Fearing for his life, he shot Brinson with his 40 cal. Glock.

Although the State offered several plea bargins to the bondsman he refused and opted for a jury trial. The jury DID NOT believe his actions were in self defense nor did they accept the SURETY'S right to surrender a fugitive even if force is necessary. Within 1 hour they returned a guilty as charged verdict.

A statement from the state attorney's office said " Under Florida law, Mr. Buchanan did not have a special right as a bondsman to use whatever force he deemed necessary to apprehend a bail jumper," in fact, Mr Buchanan was only allowed to use the force reasonable to protect himself just as any citizen would.

It just goes to show the huge risk and liability that comes with this profession.

In the blink of an eye...... Happy Hunting, be safe, be good and beware if in the Sunshine State.

July 19, 2006

I wanted everyone to know that my appeal was successful, and after 13 months of incarceration, I am home. After consulting with my NEW criminal attorney, and a lot of prayer, I felt it was in my best interest to not chance the second trial, which I was assured the State Attorney would settle for nothing less than LIFE, I took the negotiated plea offer, I will face the Judge for sentencing on August 2nd.

Meanwhile, the FUGITIVE I shot got a withheld adjudication of guilt on 5 drug charges, was never charged with the FTA, and was arrested for failing his urine test (cocaine) and twice for child support since my sentencing. HE is not, nor ever has done ONE day of prison time, only 18 months collectively in the County Jail. He has at least 46 arrests, 15 convictions, and was sentenced for his latest charges to 2 years Drug Offender Probation, instead of the 15 years in prison he SHOULD have received.

My case is now the case law in Florida. I plan on doing my best to try to straighten this mess out through proper channels, and any and all support is greatly needed. The
Fl. Statute that SHOULD have protected me, and all of us is F.S. 776.07(1). "A Law Enforcement officer or OTHER PERSON who has an arrested person in his or her custody IS JUSTIFIED in the use of ANY FORCE to prevent the escape of the arrested person from custody."

The SA in Putnam County decided that the term "other person" does not apply to Bail Agents. This is wrong, but his cards were better than mine, so I folded so I can move with my life. My plans to go to law scool, so that NO ONE will EVER have to have the endure the trauma and frustration of shoddy legal representation.

Just remember that when doing a fugitive recovery, you are NOT covered by the laws as they are currently written, even if you think you are. Please e-mail me at, and I will respond.

Danny Buchanan