It was a frenzied New Year’s Eve bond call with all the bells and whistles. I had just ended my night, and as my head hit the pillow, sure enough, my phone rang. I saw it was a “friend” of mine in need. The frantic girlfriend, the innocent arrestee, with the old “we don’t have all the money” and the life-or-death need to get out of jail saga. The usual stuff. This New Year’s Eve bond took a very sour turn for the worst. “No good deed goes unpunished” comes to mind when I think of this story.
By this time, I had graduated from being a grasshopper working with the old mentor and had an office of my own on the fourth floor of a 1924 building on Hollywood Blvd directly across the street from Musso & Frank’s. It was now a one-woman show.
Typically, all holidays were a busy time for me. When there’s a shitstorm on a holiday, the Queen of Bail is always there to clean up the mess. For established people, this was a real “get out of jail” card. I had many underground celebrity and organized crime clients who had carte blanche accounts with me. There would be designated people who had the power to call me, give me a name for bail, and I was on it, no questions asked. We would square up with paperwork and payment when it was convenient for my client. I would drive to them as a courtesy; I would bring a swag bag of t- shirts, stickers and custom logo cookies. My clients felt like rock stars as opposed to feeling like culprits. This client was not one of those situations. This was not an underground celebrity nor an organized crime mobster. The defendant was street gang affiliated, and his girlfriend was only guilty by association.
The “friend” was a pretty girl who came from a scandalous family. Her mother was a felon and her brother was hanging by a thread in a notorious gang — and who knows if she had a father. She was just along for the ride looking for a relationship, had a job, and lived for the weekends when she could do drugs. When you live that gang life, raids, deaths, prisons and drugs are as common as pens, paper and computer ink is to the norm. I knew what her lifestyle was when I answered her call.
“Raquel!” she said, panting out of breath. “Raquel! Oh my God, where are you? I need you!” The very first thought that came to my mind was — she is HIGH. That’s the first thing I thought, but I let that thought pass and went on to treat the call as any other business call. This is painful to remember in retrospect. Fitting to her personality, let’s call her “Skyler,” the most annoying name I can think of.
Skyler, still breathing hard and talking fast, explained to me that her boyfriend had been arrested, was in the Culver City police station and she had to get him out. Women have a great propensity to be the hero for the man in custody. She didn’t have the full amount of premium, but she had a $2,000 down payment, and would owe me $1,500. I knew her, her brother, her ex-husband, and I knew where she worked. I figured it was all good. It was now approximately one a.m. I got out of bed, got dressed, got in my car and drove from the Valley to Culver City.
Her boyfriend was in jail on a domestic violence warrant from a previous case involving a previous girlfriend. The warrant screamed out, I DON’T GO TO COURT — I GET WARRANTS INSTEAD. The bail amount for domestic violence is always $50,000. For those who don’t know how bail works, I’ll quickly break it down for you. The court wants an insurance policy on the defendant to insure his or her appearance in court. That’s where the bail agent comes in. The bail agency puts up the full bail amount, and the client pays a non-refundable premium. The bail agency gets the full amount of the bail returned once sentencing occurs and the case is over.
So I just fronted them 50k.
It was now two a.m. I posted his bond and decided to wait with Skyler for her boyfriend so I could get a look at him. He was unimpressive. After our introduction, the couple got into their car and I got into mine. Before I was able to leave the scene, Skyler ran up to my car and said, “Raquel, I need $400 of that money back. My boyfriend said he needs it.” I simply said “No” and drove off.
That was a sign I should have taken very seriously. Even to this day I’m not sure I could have steered this bond in a different direction after posting it.
No payments came, and I was getting nervous. I called Skyler’s ex-husband and he gave me lots of information about the new boyfriend. Apparently, the new boyfriend’s father was an ex-gang member who did not leave the felonious organization with any dignity or respect from his fellow members. And the cherry on top was that the new boyfriend’s moniker was “Satan.” They called him Satan! Satan had a track record of beating up on women, and this was not his first arrest. My stomach felt sick at the information I was receiving.
I called Skyler and asked her to bring her new boyfriend to my office in Hollywood for a chat and to fill out his application. Much to my surprise, they showed up. I remember it was nighttime when they arrived. My office was above Boardner’s Bar and there was always the sound of a major party going on outside my window. I was playing some Led Zeppelin while enjoying an end-of-day glass of wine when they arrived. I offered them water, beer or wine and they both declined. I didn’t have a tray of biker bathtub speed to offer, so the meeting went forward with a dry tone. Satan was a creep and wasn’t being friendly or nice. The vibe was not good.
I broke the ice with “So… Satan, where are you living nowadays?” He gave me the dirtiest look and said, “How do you know they call me Satan?” I replied, “I’m your bail bondsman, it’s my job to know who you are.” Dead silence followed. Personally, I love an uncomfortable silence, and I relished in the moment. The tension turned out to be too much for the big bad “Satan” and he changed his mind about the drink and asked if he could have a beer. I obliged. The meeting was somewhat hostile, impersonal, and left a bad taste in my office.
Weeks went by and I figured Satan would most likely be sentenced to anger management classes, restitution, community service and three years of summary probation. What kind of “Satan” couldn’t handle that? Surely this wasn’t his first rodeo with jail and superior courts. I thought this should be a piece of cake. As for the money he owed me, the truth is that it wasn’t going to make or break me. I was cautious and careful with the bonds that I wrote; that’s all I could do to be the best at my job. The money turned out to be the least of my problems. I didn’t think a mutual friend of so many people would stiff me, let alone imagine in my worst nightmare what would happen next.
Dead or alive
One lovely afternoon as I sat at my desk checking my mail, I got the letter… THE letter. The letter that comes from Superior Court saying the defendant did not show, a bench warrant had been issued and the bond was forfeited. THE letter that says you have 120 days to bring the body (that’s right, “dead or alive” still applies) to court or pay $50,000. I now had 120 days to bring that motherfucker back to court, dead or alive, or I was on the hook for fifty grand — that’s right, FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS, the full amount of his bail. My stomach turned, I felt the sweat start to seep from my hairline, and an overwhelming feeling of trouble sank into me like a massive crashing cloud of doom.
I pulled Satan’s file from my credenza and dialed his number. At this point, I was seeing black, I was basically blacked out with fear and anger, operating on automatic pilot in a form of shock and disbelief. Then, he answered his phone! I immediately felt a breath leave my chest as I heard his voice. Surely fugitives wouldn’t answer the phone to speak with their bail agent!
“Satan, it’s Raquel.” He calmly said, “Hey, what’s up Raquel.” I said, “Did you forget to go to court?” Satan said, “No, Raquel, I didn’t forget. I’m not going.” He calmly explained to me that he was a third striker, that he was facing three years and wasn’t going to do time for “some bitch.” The adrenaline was on a steady, heavy flow. I screamed some madness, basically telling him that when I found him I was going to rip him to shreds. He hung up on me. I was insane with anger and panic immediately set in. I had never been in this situation before.
My first move was to call my insurance company. I was referred to a private investigator to find my fugitive. I prepared my file for our meeting. I had my bail bond application, which had an alleged address, his social security number, his date of birth, and his girlfriend’s information. I took it upon myself to research his last probation officer’s name and number. I also had some background on his gang member father, the ex-girlfriend he beat up, the current gang he was claiming to be in, and previous addresses establishing a history living in Culver City. I had
done my homework, I prepared my case file and I was ready! This was my first “skip,” as they are called, and I was going to nail this sucker to the cross.
Within a few days, I sat down with the PI and told him everything just like I’ve told you. I told the PI that I had prepared everything and pulled out my two-inch thick case file. The private investigator gave a short shake of his head, closed his eyes with a slow blink and said, “I just need his phone number.” At that moment I knew I had found a bonafide badass.
By the books
Two weeks later at 6:30 a.m., the PI had found him within thirty feet of his exact location and had specific and clear instructions for me. The crack of dawn call went something like this:
“I found your guy, he’s in Washington state. Listen to me and do exactly what I say. You need to call the local police in Washington state and tell them he’s a fugitive on a violent charge warrant and to pick him up, or you can hire a bounty hunter, but it needs to be right now.” He had number codes for me to get to the right person at the police station.
Washington state?! I was so incredibly freaked out by this. There was a lot of screaming, yelling, slamming things all around and pacing — lots of pacing. Don’t think for one minute I was cool, calm and collected, because I wasn’t. I immediately got on the phone with the local PD station and was met with cooperation. So vastly different from LA. If Satan had been in LA, I would have had two knuckle-draggers go pick him up and no one would have known the difference. In another state, I had to go by the books.
The local police spoke with my private investigator, who was a retired detective, and he got fast results. The police picked him up without a hitch.
I received a text message with an extremely satisfying picture of my fugitive in handcuffs. He had a huge belly hanging in front of him and a sad, hanging face to match. The cops even said they would say “Hi” for me. I’m glad the cops enjoyed picking him up. I damn well enjoyed it, too. The next major issue was keeping him in custody and getting him back to Los Angeles. One nightmare had ended, and another bad dream had just begun.
I had to pay for a local bounty hunter and purchase two airline tickets from Washington state to LA and I was not happy about it, but I had no choice. I also had to pay a per diem to the bounty hunter with strict instructions that I didn’t want Satan to have so much as a sip of water. I don’t know what laws a bounty hunter needs to abide by, but I told the bounty hunter that if he must give him food and beverage, make sure to spit in it or on it first.
After it was all said and done, the ordeal cost me over $6,000. But man, that’s so much better than having to cough up 50k. I took an eight grand loss on this bond. As a result, my business insurance company dropped me like a hot tamale just to add salt to the wound. This was the first and last skip my business ever had. The picture that the bounty hunter provided brought solace and a great sense of revenge that this sucker knew that he burned the Queen of Bail and that it didn’t take long to get caught slippin’.
After all of that expense and vein-popping stress, “Satan” the “third striker,” by way of public defender, did four months time in county jail for the domestic violence charge and was released as time served.