Monday, March 10, 2008

Court Officer Payout Scheme

A state court security officer on Friday admitted taking cash payments from bail bondsmen, the latest development in a continuing investigation of the Connecticut bail bond industry.

Jill D'Antona, a judicial marshal employed at the Superior Court on Elm Street in New Haven, pleaded guilty in federal court to soliciting and accepting a gratuity. In her position, which her superiors said she is in the process of resigning, D'Antona, 37, of Seymour, was assigned to courthouse security and prisoner transportation duties.

D'Antona is accused of taking thousands of dollars over at least five years from Robert and Philip Jacobs, two of the three principals in a family-owned bail bond business operating in greater New Haven. The Jacobses, who were charged earlier in connection with the same investigation, have admitted paying D'Antona for using her official position to get them business.

The Jacobses, along with their father, Robert, and former New Haven police Lt. William White, were the first to be arrested — on March 13 of last year — in the corruption investigation. It was revealed in court Friday that Philip Jacobs began cooperating with FBI agents soon after and, notwithstanding the enormous publicity generated by his arrest, secretly recorded D'Antona taking money during a series of exchanges that began two months later.

On May 11, 2007, after learning that a potential client being arraigned at D'Antona's courthouse needed a bail bond, Philip Jacobs phoned D'Antona and asked her to hold the arrestee in the courthouse lock-up, according to an affidavit filed in court. D'Antona agreed, essentially guaranteeing Jacobs an exclusive opportunity to write a $17,500 bond.

Three days later, the affidavit says, Philip Jacobs met D'Antona in the courthouse basement and recorded the conversation as he gave her $100 for the favor.

The following July, Philip Jacobs asked D'Antona for another favor. He wanted her to enter a holding cell and obtain a phone number from a man with a court-ordered $150,000 bond. D'Antona agreed, according to the affidavit. After using the number to call the man's family, Philip Jacobs arranged to write the bond. He made $2,000 on the transaction, the affidavit says.

Less than a week later, with his tape recorder running, Philip Jacobs arranged to meet D'Antona in the parking lot of a hamburger stand in Derby to pay her what he said was her customary fee — $200, or 10 percent of his $2,000 he made on the bond.

During the hamburger-stand meeting, according to the affidavit, Philip Jacobs recorded D'Antona saying, "I know it's funny that you called today because I need to borrow money. Five hundred. I don't know when I can pay you back."

Philip Jacobs replied, "That's all right. I have 200 that I was gonna give you for helping me with that bond. I can give you the rest tomorrow."

Jacobs set up a meeting the following day to deliver the extra $300. Again he recorded the transaction, according to the affidavit. He gave her the $300 and told her she could keep it, as long as she kept helping him out.

D'Antona asked whether it was safe for them to be conversing over Jacob's phone — implying that law enforcement might be listening in. Philip Jacobs said his phone was fine, but he expressed concern about the courthouse telephones. D'Antona said she would call from somewhere else if she could arrange to do so, according to the affidavit.

D'Antona worked as a judicial marshal from 2000 to December 2007, when she went on a leave of absence following her arrest. She was expected to resign Thursday, but officials at the state Judicial Department were unsure whether the resignation had been processed.

Both Philip and Robert Jacobs have told authorities that D'Antona, over an unspecified number of years, provided them with services that enabled them to beat their competition and cut expenses.

Over five years, Philip Jacobs said, he paid D'Antona at least $1,500. In addition, he said he cashed her personal checks, most of which bounced, and loaned her about $800.

Robert Jacobs told authorities he paid D'Antona for her help and because he was sympathetic to what he called her "difficult financial condition." State officials said D'Antona was paid about $3,000 a month.

Robert Jacobs said he paid D'Antona between $50 and $100 three times a month over at least two years. In addition, he said he cashed her checks, which he said "often bounced."

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

No comments: