Bail Me

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Todd, Wells' attorney, says there was "some miscommunication" between him and Wells, explaining why he brought in the document when he did. "I handle dozens of cases for him at a time," Todd says. He says he presented the affidavit at an appropriate time, and it was accepted.

For his part, Wells says the affidavit is proof he and his staff keep on top of his clients better than some of his competitors and critics. "I take care of my business...She didn't check in, and I went off her bond." As proof, he pulls up a computer file showing his system for keeping track of his clients, which county records show number more than 1,000. The record that flashes up on the screen shows that Wells' record-keeping, however, didn't compare to Moran's on this potential $50,000 liability. The computer record lists Dixon checking into Wells' office only a few times by phone the entire time she was on the bond.

Wells says he and his staff contact clients in the week before court appearances. And while he can't recall the specific dates, he says it was during such a check that he became concerned about Dixon.

The case is among those being reviewed in the sheriff's department probe, Moran says. "They asked me questions about it."

The elusive Dixon surfaced just before Christmas, proving in the process just how deep Wells' network can reach. This time, it stretched into his clients' world.

A woman, one of Wells' bail clients, came into his office claiming to know Dixon's whereabouts. "She'd taken up with the woman's husband," says Wells, who sent the woman to Moran's office. "I did her [Moran] a favor," he adds.

Motivated by spite, jealousy or the $750 snitch fee Moran says she paid, the jilted woman led Moran's bounty hunters to Dixon, who remained in the city but switched addresses, phone numbers and cars to stay out of sight. She is now tucked in jail and held on a parole violation that precludes bail.

Wells says his location in the heart of Oak Cliff puts him closer to everything: potential clients, missing clients and what he dubs on his calling card, "our community."

Over the years, black bondsmen have been able to do a little business by catering to the neighborhood. "People like to do business with people they're comfortable with," Wells says.

But nobody before Wells climbed to the top doing it.

The conventional route to success has had two ingredients, Wells' competitors say: full-page Yellow Pages ads costing tens of thousands of dollars a year and a location near Lew Sterrett Justice Center, the county jail. That is why there's a village of portable buildings along Commerce and Industrial, complete with blaring signs and promises of discounts. They share a certain hard-bitten edge, with functional metal desks and tile floors. In one, a clerk smoked behind a no-smoking sign. In another, a sign read, "Have a complaint. Take a number." On the number hook was a plastic grenade.

"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.

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.

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec