Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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Saturday, October 25, 2014
DA investigating if more suspects were bailed out with phony bonds
Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2014
The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office is looking into the number of criminal suspects who might have been freed with surety bonds obtained through a Berks County business where at least two agents are suspected of passing counterfeit bonds.
At least one Bensalem drug defendant was set free after a phony bond was posted, and a second Bensalem drug suspect was nearly freed, authorities said. The bonds were obtained through licensed bail agents working for Ace Bail Bonds in Reading, whose offices were raided Monday as part of a Berks County investigation into the counterfeiting allegations.
The Berks County probe was launched after the Oct. 3 arrest of a Berks County man — working for Ace Bail Bonds — who allegedly attempted to post a phony $500,000 surety bond that day for an incarcerated suspected drug dealer at District Judge Joseph Falcone’s court in Bensalem.
A surety bond is essentially an insurance policy that assures a criminal defendant will appear for court as ordered. If the defendant fails to appear, the county would seek to collect on the entire bail amount from the insurance company.
One of the Ace Bail employees hasn’t been criminally charged yet. But Dean Gurney, 47, was charged and is awaiting a preliminary hearing set for next month for allegedly attempting to post an expired bail bond. Falcone’s court staff caught the suspicious bond and notified police, who confirmed it had expired, according to court documents.
Gurney faces charges of forgery, securing execution of documents by deceptions and related offenses. He is incarcerated in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $250,000 bail.
A week before Gurney’s attempt to pass the expired bond, the other licensed agent for Ace Bail Bonds successfully posted a phony $500,000 bond in Falcone’s court for a Florida man suspected of drug dealing.
An arrest warrant has been issued for that defendant, Harold Boigues Soto, 35, of Tampa, Florida.
Soto was released on the bond after being charged with two other men on felony drug delivery and related offenses after allegedly attempting to buy 10 kilograms of cocaine — with a $1 million street value — for $175,000 cash in an undercover sting operation on Sept. 11 in Bensalem.
When he didn’t appear for his preliminary hearing Wednesday, the charges against him were sent to Buck County Court for a trial.
His two accomplices, Rigoberto Nunez, 42, of Griffin, Georgia, and Victor Mujica, 31, of Allentown, waived their right to a preliminary hearing. In return, the DA’s office reduced the main charge to attempted drug delivery and reduced their bail to 10 percent of $50,000 instead of $500,000, but required them to turn in their passports.
The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Reading attorney Jay Nigrini, who represents Ace Bail Bonds owner Vincent Smith, for comment Wednesday. Ace Bail Bonds has offices in Pennsylvania, New York and other states.
The investigation into the business could take some time, since, in Bucks County, criminal defendants can post bail at a minimum of 22 different places, including district courts and the county jail, Furber said.
Berks County District Attorney John Adams said that Bucks County officials are assisting in the ongoing investigation.
Adams confirmed that his office is aware of other counterfeit bail bonds posted in Berks, but didn’t know if any more were posted in Bucks County.