Bail Me

In just a few years, David Wells has eaten a big slice of Dallas' bail-bond business. His secret? It depends on whom you ask.

"It's hard to do much business if you're in B-F Egypt," says one leading bondsman.

Wells disagrees. "I'm in the community, where people can find me. They don't need to go downtown." As for advertising, he has taken his cue from high-volume lawyers. For about $700 a month, he runs an ad featuring him and his Navigator on late-night TV.

"At least three black bond offices have opened up since I came around, and where do you think they are? None of them are downtown," Wells says.

Controversial bail bondsman David Wells says he is succeeding by breaking rules--the business kind, not the legal kind.
Mark Graham
Controversial bail bondsman David Wells says he is succeeding by breaking rules--the business kind, not the legal kind.
Things began picking up for Wells when he hooked up with Royce West, the influential lawyer/legislator.
John Anderson
Things began picking up for Wells when he hooked up with Royce West, the influential lawyer/legislator.

A former employee opened one. Patricia Harris, who worked for Royce West's legal office before she went to work for Wells, began Ebony Bail Bonds in Fair Park last year. She declined to be interviewed for this story.

Wells says he is more interested in "keeping my head down" than debating his creditors and critics. He says his business with Toliver, Top Rank Security Concepts, is involved in guard work, not bail bonds, and was disclosed in county business records and with the state. Wells says Toliver's participation was known to his supervisors in the sheriff's department, an assertion the department disputes.

Toliver, who has been a bailiff for 15 years and is currently assigned to state District Judge Manny Alvarez's court, says he has done nothing wrong. "If I was doing bond business work, I could see it, but I'm not," says Toliver, who says he has been a close friend of Wells' for about six years.

If the current storm does not slow him, Wells may be giving his competitors an even greater run for business in the future.

Across Dallas County, whites and Hispanics made up 77 percent of the roughly 40,000 adults arrested for crimes last year, state statistics show. The numbers help explain why Wells chose to open his second bond office, Town East Bail Bonds, in predominantly white, suburban Mesquite last fall.

"I'm expanding," says Wells, who seven years after he lost his first house bought a 3,700-square-foot new one in DeSoto, with four bathrooms and a pool.

"I'm not prejudiced," he says. "Black, white, brown...it's all green to me."

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