Monday, October 20, 2008

More News About Wargod

Three of the wannabe bounty hunters who allegedly stormed a home for the elderly looking for a fugitive said on Friday that they had been duped by the ringleaders of their outfit.

The five-person fugitive recovery agency, Wargod Inc., operated illegally — without certification by a court system or being employed by a bail bondsman — according to police.

Professional bondsmen, who post bail for defendants, must obtain their licenses from the state Insurance Department and register with their local district attorney. They also must maintain a phone number and operate an office in each county in which they work, according to Insurance Department regulations.

Wargod's alleged leaders, Lawrence Colon, 39, and Kelly Hefferon, 40, whose home on Route 715 in Jackson Township was the outfit's base of operations, purportedly convinced the rest of their team members — and one of their parents — that the firm was legitimate.

"They even told me they had all those papers from the court and the state," Lucienne Normil, mother of Wargod member Darryl Normil, 21, said Friday outside District Judge Debby York's office.

"Those three are innocent," she said, referring to her son and to Anthony Laino and James Farrell, both 35.

Normil waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He faces charges that he impersonated a public servant, which is a misdemeanor, and summary charges for improperly using emergency lights and signals on his Ford Focus. His bail was reduced from $100,000 to $10,000.

He also stands accused of a felony charge for possessing a firearm. Already convicted of a felony, he is barred from having weapons.

Normil had previously been sentenced to a year's probation for theft and receiving stolen property. About six months later, he pleaded guilty to using another person's credit card without authorization.

Wargod initially attracted police attention after Hefferon's neighbors complained repeatedly about shots being fired in her back yard and sirens sounding until after midnight.

On Sept. 26, state police went to the house after another complaint from neighbors. Unbeknownst to police, Wargod was out hunting for a wanted criminal.

According to police, Wargod's search took them to West Gate apartments, a home for the elderly. They ran up and down the halls and tried to get into an apartment, which prompted a 911 call.

Wargod's appearance — black military fatigues, assault vests with empty holsters, badges, cans of mace and handcuffs — also prompted an emergency phone call in downtown Stroudsburg.

State police met with the members of Wargod once they returned to Hefferon's house that night. Officials later ran a background check and discovered that the company was not properly licensed and that two of its members, Normil and Colon, were felons.

"There were some things that should've been done that were not done," a pained Anthony Laino, 35, told reporters as he was led out of York's courtroom.

"I just made the mistake of being with the wrong crowd," Laino said before state police drove him away. "I just want to forget about this."

Charged with the misdemeanor impersonation charge, Laino had his bail reduced to $5,000. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing and proceeded straight to trial.

On his way out of the courtroom in police custody, Farrell said that Colon had duped him.

"He had a good line," said Farrell, who also waived his right to a preliminary hearing. "He said it was legal."

Farrell apologized to police and said he would no longer attempt to be a bounty hunter. "Next time, I'll let them do it," he said.

Accused of the misdemeanor impersonation, Farrell's bail was reduced to $1,000.

All three — Laino, Normil and Farrell — are cooperating with the District Attorney's office, according to Assistant D.A., Colleen Mancuso.

But she did not believe ignorance excused their actions.

"They knew and should have known because of their backgrounds that this could not be legitimate," Mancuso said. "What was their thought process? They could've been killed."

Colon and Hefferon, who did not comment when separately leaving York's courtroom, allegedly also made other efforts to convince their team that Wargod was for real. They administered exams and essays and levied $20 fines on team members if they were late posting bonds, according to Tom Sundmaker, Normil's lawyer.

Neighbors also told a reporter that they occasionally had seen the Wargod staffers armed, clad in black and marching in formation up and down Jackson View Road.

Colon and Hefferon both face impersonation misdemeanor charges. A felon, Colon also faces the firearms rap.

Hefferon also has been issued summary charges for improperly using emergency lights and signals.

They did not have lawyers at the preliminary hearing. Their hearings were rescheduled for Friday.

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