A former bail bondsman has been charged with fraud after he failed to pay back two of his clients when their bail was exonerated.
Ryan James Smith, 51, owned a company called Atlas Bail Bonds until 2016 when the Idaho Department of Insurance forced him to surrender his license.
Smith reportedly had misused collateral funds paid for the bond, spending it at restaurants, Amazon and at casinos, according to a report from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office.
In 2014, Michael Brazil was arrested in Clark County on misdemeanor drug charges. His bail was set at $10,000.
Michael Brazil contacted his father, Samuel Brazil, asking for help with the bail. Michael had seen advertisements in the jail for various bail bondsmen and gave his father contact information for one of the companies, Atlas Bail Bonds.
The court system can assign a bail amount for defendants when they are arraigned. An inmate is released after paying the bail. If they cooperate with the court, appear for their hearing dates and do not flee the state, then the court will exonerate their bail after the case is finished, regardless of the verdict.
If an inmate or their family cannot afford to pay the bail, however, they can contact a bail bond company that will cover the cost for them. In exchange, the inmate must pay a premium to the bail bond company, typically equal to 10 percent of the bail.
Samuel Brazil said when he contacted Atlas Bail Bonds to pay his son’s bail, Smith said he needed collateral because Michael was from out of state and therefore a flight risk. Samuel paid Smith $10,000 as collateral, the same amount as Michael’s bail. He also paid the $1,000 premium and $90 in transportation fees.
Both Samuel and Michael told the Post Register that neither Smith nor anyone at the jail told them they had the option to pay the $10,000 to the jail directly. Inmates and family members can arrange to pay bail by contacting the county jail directly.
In February 2015, Michael was sentenced to unsupervised probation. Three months later his bond was exonerated.
The Brazil family did not receive their collateral from Atlas, however. Samuel attempted to call Smith but received no reply. After two weeks, he filed a complaint with the Department of Insurance, which assigned the case to an investigator.
Court records showed Smith transferred the money from an account meant for collateral funds to his personal account and the company’s petty cash account. The court records show that when the bond was exonerated, Smith no longer had the funds to repay Samuel.
Samuel did receive his collateral fee back on July 10, 2015, a month after he filed the complaint and 51 days after the bail was exonerated. Idaho law requires collateral to be returned within 14 days of exoneration.
“I dealt with him enough, and he lied to me enough that I was just thrilled to get my money,” Samuel told the Post Register on Monday.
The Department of Insurance later learned, however, that Smith had repaid the Brazil family partially with collateral fees he received from another client. A second complaint was filed in October 2015, when a woman reported Smith had failed to pay her back the $5,000 collateral fee. The court records show Smith repaid the second victim 243 days after the bail in that case was exonerated.
An investigator with the Department of Insurance interviewed Smith in April 2019 as part of a criminal review. Smith admitted to using collateral funds for personal use, telling the investigator he thought it was legal.
Smith was charged with two counts of misappropriation or diversion of fiduciary funds, each punishable with up to five years in prison.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 23 in Bonneville County Courthouse.