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Bondsman pleads guilty to using OC jail inmates to get clients

June 29, 2012 |  3:52 pm

Oc jail
A Santa Ana bail bondsman pleaded guilty to and was convicted Friday of paying an inmate to drum up business inside the Orange County Jail, a conviction that will cost him his license and lead to six months in jail.

In 2009 and 2010, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office, James Everett Morris Jr., 49, who owns James Morris Bail Bonds, paid a jail inmate commissions for notifying him when other inmates needed bail. He will be sentenced in September.

Investigators found that the inmate received $100 one day and $200 another day for the referrals. To build the case, prosecutors used audiotaped phone calls made from the jail.

Another bondsman at the firm, Kenneth L. Hendrick, 49, of Mission Viejo, is accused of using 11 jail inmates to inform him about other inmates who needed bail between March and December 2010.

Twice, authorities said, Hendrick broke the law by recommending the name of an attorney while on the phone with an inmate. He could face 11 years and 8 months in prison if convicted.

State law forbids bail bonds agents from using inmates to solicit business.

Prosecutors say that if such a practice were allowed, it could promote a dangerous climate in which criminals competed for commissions and were tempted to use strong-arm persuasion to win them.

-- Christopher Goffard

Photo: Orange County Jail. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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