Friday, August 06, 2010

After 18 Months, Serious Charges Against Bail Bondsman Remain Largely Unexamined

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A year and a half after Bexar County's leading bail bondsman starred in an Express-News report on whether he offered illicit favors to a range of public officials in exchange for business, it's hard to find evidence that the explosive allegations against him have been taken seriously.

That doesn't mean Albert Saenz did anything wrong. It does mean the charges against the owner of AA BEST Bail Bonds haven't been vetted as fully as they should've been.

Activity has picked up recently, though there may be injustice in that, too. Tim Ybarra, who worked in the D.A.'s bond forfeiture section, was reassigned last month to the office's juvenile division.

Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said that was done after he saw a new affidavit from Brenda Flores, who managed Saenz's office but was fired more than a year ago, saying Ybarra gave Saenz extra time to find fugitives and pay penalties in exchange for cash.

That's doubly sensitive because Ybarra is the Democratic candidate for county clerk in November. Herberg — whose boss, Susan Reed, also is on the ballot — said the affidavit had been referred to the Texas Rangers, who have a policy not to discuss allegations involving a candidate close to an election.

But that begs another question: Why did everybody wait so long?

The allegations against Saenz first surfaced on Nov. 23, 2008, in an Express-News story by John MacCormack, who spoke to 11 former employees, a half-dozen of whom accused Saenz of improprieties. Two told MacCormack this week that they hadn't been interviewed by anyone — not the Rangers, not the district attorney or sheriff's offices, and not the Bexar County Bail Bond Board, which held a hearing in January 2009 but took no action.

I wasn't able to reach Robert DeLeon, the bail bond board's administrator, on Thursday, but Ed Schweninger, the board's attorney, said the hearing had been less detailed than he'd expected.
He said the board doesn't have an investigative arm.

Read more here.

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