SURETY COMPANY DATA:

Bankers Surety

Political Contributions

According to the National Institute on Money in Politics, Bankers Insurance Group has given a total of $832,747 to 120 different campaigns since 1998.

In California alone, Secretary of State records show Bankers Insurance Company has spent $526,661 on campaign contributions since 2008.

Lobbying

From May 2017 to June 2018, Bankers Insurance Company, Inc. was a registered lobbyist employer in California, with Mercury Public Affairs as its lobbying firm. During this time, Bankers reported a total of $30,000 in lobbying expenses.

According to records with the Florida Commission of Ethics, from 2009 to 2019, Bankers Insurance Company and Bankers Specialty Insurance Company have spent a total of about $730,000 to nearly $1.6 million on lobbying in the state.

The following table shows lobbying activity conducted on behalf of Bankers Financial Corporation with the federal government, based on filings made with the U.S. Clerk of the House of Representatives. Entities lobbied over this time included the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Executive Office of the President, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State. As shown below, Bankers Financial spent $355,000 or less on lobbying over this time. Note that exact amounts aren’t given for each year as registrants aren’t required to provide an exact amount if $5,000 or less is spent on lobbying each quarter.1

Year

Lobbying Firm

Total

2017

Greenberg Traurig

$120,000

2018

Greenberg Traurig

$170,000

2019

Greenberg Traurig

<$65,000

Total

<$355,000

 

In addition to lobbying on appropriations bills, Bankers Financial Corporation reported lobbying on immigration issues and “administrative and legislative monitoring and outreach on issues related to immigration bonding.” The following specific congressional bills concerning immigration bonds or other immigration issues were also lobbied on by Bankers Financial, based on their filings and summaries of legislation provided by U.S. Congress.2

E-Bonding for Immigration Integrity Act of 2018 (HR 5750): “This bill requires an alien who is in one of the following nonimmigrant categories to post a bond prior to being issued a U.S. entry visa: (1) an alien who is from a country with a visa overstay rate greater than 1.5%; or (2) a B-visa tourist or business entrant, an F-visa foreign student, an H-visa temporary nonagricultural worker, or a K-visa fiance/fiancee.” Under the bill, DHS would “establish a $2,500-$10,000 bond amount, which shall be reviewed annually, for each visa category based upon overstay risk,” and establish the “E-bond Enforcement Fund” which would be funded by forfeited bonds. However, the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) in May 2018, has not moved forward since being referred to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security in June 2018.

Securing America's Future Act of 2018 (HR 4760): “This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise immigrant visa allocation provisions, including family-related visas,” as well as provisions related to “detention of aliens in removal proceedings.” The provision regarding release on bond states, “An alien detained under subsection (a) may seek release on bond. No bond may be granted except to an alien who establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the alien is not a flight risk or a danger to another person or the community.” A motion “to reconsider laid on the table” was agreed to after it failed to pass in a roll call vote, 193 to 231, in June 2018.

Building America’s Trust Act (S 1757): “This bill provides for strengthening the barriers along the U.S. land and maritime borders to deter illegal activity, including through U.S. Border Patrol and law enforcement enhancements and personnel increases and National Guard use.” The text of the bill states that, under Revocation of Bond or Parole, that, “The Secretary at any time may revoke bond or parole authorized under subsection (a), rearrest the alien under the original warrant, and detain the alien.” No further action has been taken since the bill was read a second time in the Senate and placed on the legislative calendar in September 2017.

AG Act (HR 4092): “This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to establish a new H-2C nonimmigrant visa for aliens having a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning and who are coming temporarily to the United States to perform agricultural labor or services.” The bill would also establish a trust fund “to provide a monetary incentive for H-2C workers to return to their countries of origin upon expiration of their visas.” However, it did not move forward after being introduced and referred to House committees for consideration in October 2017.

SECURE Act of 2017 (SB 2192): “This bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to achieve situational awareness and operational control of the U.S. southern border and to deter and detect illegal activity in high traffic areas. […] The bill provides for: (1) additional border control and immigration personnel, (2) reimbursement to state and local prosecutors for federally initiated immigration-related criminal cases, (3) expansion of biometric technology and data, and (4) immigration detention capacity increases.” However, it did not move forward after being introduced in the U.S. Senate in December 2017.

Ownership

Bankers Insurance Corporation is structured as a holding company for several companies as outlined in the graphic below.

Leadership

Director

Title and Affiliations 

John Arthur Strong

Chairman, Director, and CEO, Bankers Financial Corporation

Robert G. Menke

President, and Director, Bankers Financial Corporation

Ted Taylor Devine

Director and Co-Founder of Insureon

Brian Jay Kesneck

Senior VP and Director

Brett Miller Menke

Director and VP of Corporate Culture, Bankers Financial Corporation

David Hamilton Reed

Director and Principal of Shepard Capital Partners

Toan C Huynh

Director, Bankers Financial Corporation

David K Meehan

Director, Bankers Financial Corporation

May Katherine McInnis

Director, Bankers Financial Corporation

Christopher Kyle Menke

Director, Bankers Financial Corporation

Dirty Laundry


Extortion By New Orleans Bail Agent

In March 2018, the New York Times published an article that included details of abusive practices by Blair’s Bail Bonds, a bail company underwritten by Bankers Insurance Company in New Orleans. According to the article, in June 2016, Ronald Egana had his $26,000 bail posted by Blair’s Bail Bonds, but because “he could not afford the fee, $3,275,” he arranged for a payment installment plan. Then, after his release from custody, he was also required “to pay $10 a day for an ankle monitor, though the judge had not ordered one.” While Egana, a carpenter, soon fell behind on his payments, “he thought that since he was routinely showing up to court, he would be fine.”

However, due to his late payments, Blair’s Bail Bonds started detaining him. For instance, “At one point, two men with guns and bulletproof vests came to the home where he was working as a contractor and forced him into a car. Each time, they demanded that his mother pay more money.” In another instance, a bounty hunter intercepted Egana at the courthouse metal detector and took him to the company’s office. He “ended up in handcuffs, missing his court appearance while the agency got his mother on the phone and demanded more than $1,500 in overdue payments.” Furthermore, each time he was detained, “his friends or family was forced to pay more to get him released.” Egana said, “It was kidnapping…They saw the love that my mom has for me, and they used that as leverage.” Furthermore, Blair’s eventually “decided it no longer wanted Mr. Egana as a customer and handed him over to the jail.”


Employment of Fraudulent Bondsmen


Jimmie Cannon of Abierto Bail Bonds

Jimmie Cannon was a licensed bail agent in the state of California from 2001 to 2010 when his license was revoked following an accusation of misconduct, and before his license was revoked, his surety was Bankers Insurance Company. In 2007, Cannon instructed a fellow bail agent, Estella Gutierrez, to post bail on behalf of a client of Cannon’s, George Recio. The premium amount was $10,000 payable to Cannon, and the total bail amount was $100,000. Mr. Recio was released on bail on November 25, 2007, with his next court appearance on December 5, 2007. However, one day after he was released, Cannon hired bounty hunters, also known as “Bail Recovery Agents,” to return Recio to jail, which they did on November 27th. After removing him from his home and returning him to custody, the bond was exonerated on November 29, 2007, but Cannon “never returned any premium money to Mr. Recio. Mr Recio never missed any court appearances during the two days he was free.” Under the bond agreement signed between Cannon and Recio, Recio was to make the first premium payment on November 27/28, and Recio paid the bail agents $2,090 on November 27th to apply towards his premium payment. A receipt was also generated by the agents on a Bankers Insurance Group document.

At the same time, Cannon filed Deeds of Trust to three properties Recio had used as collateral for his bond. Cannon proceeded to place a lien on all three properties, including the Bakersfield address where Recio’s wife and children lived. In August 2008, Cannon sent Recio’s wife notice that he intended to auction her home, and she owed him $42,000 in bounty hunter fees and foreclosure fees. In response to this notice Mrs. Recio filed a complaint with the California Department of Insurance in December 2008, and spoke with Investigator Cindi Aseltine, who discovered that Cannon had sold the Bakersfield property via foreclosure on September 9, 2008, and Bankers Insurance Company was issued a Deed of Trust which was then transferred to Cannon via a quick claim deed.3

According to the investigation, Cannon had maintained that Mr. Recio owed him $43,139.24 in previous documents, but he later claimed Recio owed him $10,000 in unpaid bail premium. Then, when the foreclosure company “demanded additional time to review the figures Respondent gave them explaining that they were ‘uncomfortable’ foreclosing on the property with the amount of $43,139.24,” Cannon explained that Recio owed him $10,000 in unpaid bail premium, “plus the cost of having Mr. Recio surrendered back to jail, for a total of $27,180.00, which he stated did not include interest or fees.” On December 5, 2008, eviction proceedings against Mrs. Recio were filed and she was evicted with her children as of April 27, 2009.

The department investigator further determined that documentation that Cannon shared with Bankers Insurance Group and documentation he shared with the investigator did not match, despite Cannon claiming they were identical documents.

As a result of these proceedings, the State Commissioner moved to suspend or revoke the license and licensing rights held by Cannon. The findings against Cannon stated that he “lacks an understanding of the obligations and duties of bail,” has “conducted business in a dishonest manner and has participated in or been connected with any business transaction which in the opinion of the commissioner tend to show unfitness to act in a fiduciary capacity or to maintain the standards of fairness and honesty required.” Additionally, the commissioner found that Cannon, “failed to perform a duty expressly enjoined upon him by a provision of this code or has committed an act expressly forbidden by such a provision.”


Dartagnan Pendleton of Musketeer Bail Bonds

In May 2012, Manuel Hernandez was arrested in Riverside County with bail set at $75,000. An attorney recommended that Hernandez’s mother, Felicita Sanchez, contact David Gonzalez for bail services. Dartagnan Pendleton of Musketeer Bail Bonds then claimed that Gonzalez contacted him and “falsely told him that he needed a family member bailed out. Gonzalez told Pendleton that Gonzalez’s mother and aunt were putting up the money for the bond. Pendleton accepted a credit card payment for the premium of the bond.”4

Gonzalez then met with Sanchez and her daughter at their home where he asked them to pay $4,850 as a bail premium for Manuel Hernandez, which they paid. They were provided with a receipt titled, “payment schedule for Andale Bail Bonds.” Gonzalez also had Sanchez and her daughter sign an “Indemnitors Agreement” from Bankers Insurance Company in order to issue the bond. The Indemnitors Agreement held Sanchez and her daughter as responsible for “any expenses if Manual Hernandez failed to make any court appearances after he was bailed out of jail.” Gonzalez allegedly wrote a bond number for Hernandez on the Indemnitors Agreement.

Following the payment to Gonzalez, Hernandez remained in jail due to an immigration hold, and his bond was increased to $500,000. Sanchez’s daughter requested that Gonzalez return the money paid for her brother’s bail, which Gonzalez agreed to do “maybe next week.” However, Gonzalez never returned any of the money. In 2015, Bankers Insurance Company confirmed that they had no record of a bail bond for Hernandez or the bond number Gonzalez had listed on the Indemnitors Agreement. In 2012, Sanchez’s daughter, Dina, had reversed $2,200 in charges she had placed on a MasterCard but could not reverse the charges on her Visa or debt cards. Those charges were listed as credited to Musketeer Bail Bonds. Musketeer returned $2,350 to Dina on August 4, 2016, and another $300 to her on August 19, 2016.

In April 2017, the California Department of Insurance found that Pendleton “participated in or was connected with any business transaction which tends to show unfitness to act in a fiduciary capacity or to maintain the standards of fairness and honesty required of a trustee or other fiduciary, and constitute grounds for the Insurance Commissioner to suspend or revoke his licenses and licensing rights.” The findings also stated that Pendleton “failed to return collateral received to the person who deposited it with Respondent or Respondent's assignee as soon as he was advised that the obligation secured by the collateral was discharged, […] failed to exercise a reasonable degree of supervision over his employees and make a reasonable effort to keep informed of their acts as employees,” and permitted unlicensed individuals to “solicit, negotiate, effect, issue, or deliver undertakings of bail or bail bonds.” The department concluded that he “is not a fit or proper person to be permitted to continue to hold a bail agent license” and “that it would be against public interest to permit Respondent to continue to hold a bail agent license.” The findings also noted that he “has engaged in a fraudulent practice or act or has conducted his insurance business in a dishonest manner.”

 

1 http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/ldsearch.aspx
2 http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/ldsearch.aspx
3 legaldocs.insurance.ca.gov, May 26, 2010
4 
legaldocs.insurance.ca.gov, April 12, 2017