Devil or Angel

David Collins is not an imposing man. He's a baby-faced 37 years old, about five feet, five inches tall, heavyset, with thinning hair. He has a habit of talking fast and crass, which makes him seem nervous or gives him a hustler's air -- depending on the subject.

But lack of polish and physical stature haven't held him back. In the world of shoulder-holstered bail bondsmen and the clients who need them, Collins looms large. "Many respected bondsmen have reiterated to me how Mr. Collins is the number-one player in the bail-bond industry in South Florida," says Sally Burt, former bail-bond coordinator for the State of Florida. In the industry, Burt was the law -- until she resigned last year to join Collins.

So he's done well for himself, quite an accomplishment given that Collins has been in business here a mere three years. And it's a crowded field. In Miami-Dade County alone there are more than 500 bondsmen. Most work out of grungy offices that satellite the criminal courthouse near Jackson Memorial Hospital, cluttered places smelling of burned coffee and decorated with mug shots of clients, all of whom are in legal limbo and willing to pay to temporarily maintain their freedom.

Anybody who watches television cop shows knows the system: Judges set bail to assure that a criminal defendant shows up for trial. If the defendant can afford to pay the bail amount, he's free until the trial concludes. If not, he can pay a bondsman ten percent of the bail as a fee. The bondsman guarantees the court that the defendant will appear as required; should the defendant skip town, the bondsman will be liable for the full bail amount. Bondsmen, in turn, pay insurance companies between fifteen and twenty percent of their fee to insure the bond. Ultimately the insurance company must pay if the defendant vanishes.

This is where Collins is a big man. He's Florida's general managing agent for New York-based Seneca Insurance Company, which underwrites millions of dollars in bonds each year and has more than a hundred bondsmen bringing it business statewide.

It's a service at the threshold of law and order, a place where people are not yet wards of the state but have already lost many of their rights, where they have been charged with crimes but have been proven neither innocent nor guilty. The bond business itself operates in a likewise complex place, straddling both the criminal courts, where judges set bail, and the civil courts, where the rules governing bond contracts are enforced.

Over the years some bail-bond companies have exploited this complexity, using one court's ignorance of what happened in another court to avoid paying a bond after a client has fled. Collins, who personally signs off on the bonds for Seneca Insurance, has benefited handsomely from this murky setup. In 2003 Miami-Dade judges vacated nearly a million dollars' worth of Collins's Seneca bonds after defendants skipped out. That was ten times the money vacated for his two biggest competitors, money that otherwise would have gone into the county's "fines and forfeiture" fund. In a notorious case from last year, Collins beat the county out of $400,000 after one of his clients, an accused drug dealer, disappeared. The deciding factor? A minor typographical error on an envelope.

But Collins, a Rhode Island transplant, says it's all perfectly legal and he's just a good businessman. The way he runs his operation is a source of pride for him. Who else could have opened shop and become a force in the bail-bond world in three short years? Who else could have so quickly become the state's top man for a huge insurance company? Who else could have hired the former state regulator of the bail-bond industry, adding clout that reaches all the way to Tallahassee?

No wonder there's a bit of swagger about Collins. He's gained prominence by writing eye-popping bonds, betting hundreds of thousands of dollars that a defendant will stick around for trial. And so far it's paid off. Collins parks his black Mercedes at his office building, which he has remodeled to resemble a mini-Italian villa, complete with columned portico and polished stone, a far cry from the cluttered hovels of the lowly bondsmen.

To those who know his background, his success is not only astounding, it's literally unbelievable. That's because, technically, Collins shouldn't be allowed to work as a bail bondsman. Florida law prohibits convicted felons from obtaining the required state license. Collins has been convicted of at least two felonies, armed robbery among them. But a Rhode Island state judge annulled these criminal convictions, erasing them from official records through a procedure known as expungement. The judge did this after a couple of high-level law-enforcement officials testified on behalf of Collins. That testimony was given in closed hearings, and the authorities never publicly explained why they vouched for Collins or what relationship they had with him.

The judge's order, however, violated Rhode Island's own expungement rules: Only first-time offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes are eligible, and ten years must have passed since they completed their sentences. Nonetheless it happened, and that allowed Collins to acquire a bail-bond license -- first in Rhode Island, then in Florida.

His defenders, including the former police chief of Providence, Rhode Island, Urbano Prignano, say Collins is a model of rehabilitation. "You never made a mistake in your life?" Prignano asks pointedly. "He got in some trouble and straightened his life out."

The issue of his character might have found a delicate balance on that fulcrum -- present businessman versus former thug -- except that Wayne David Collins, Jr., has had a difficult time leaving his past behind.

Collins doesn't like to talk unless his lawyer, Joseph S. Rosenbaum, is present, and even then most of it is off the record. When he's on the record, as he was one day recently, Collins can get hot. "I came down here not knowing anybody. I went to bail-bond school. I work as hard as anybody. I abide by the law and I never asked anybody for anything!" he fumed at those who would question his reputation. But some people are doing just that, people Collins views with contempt. "These guys," he sneered, "are cooking up a story to get out of jail. You're gonna print that crap?"

Collins the businessman is concerned about echoes of Collins the goon that have surfaced in a federal criminal case now wending its way through the system in Massachusetts. The defendant, whom the feds accuse of trafficking marijuana, says he worked with a man named John Dana, whose principal business partner was David Collins.

According to court documents, Collins allegedly hired a lawyer for the defendant in an elaborate scheme to control events and make some money. The lawyer succeeded in having the criminal charges dismissed, though Collins took credit. According to the accused man, Collins bragged that the dismissal was the result of his close ties to federal agents.

Then Collins demanded a huge sum of money. When the defendant couldn't pay, Dana allegedly paid him a visit in the company of a "bald muscular guy with piercings going through his eyes ... sent by J.D.'s boss, the bail bondsman, because I owed a lot of money," the defendant states in a 2003 sworn affidavit filed in his case. "This guy explained that ... my life and my family's life would be in danger" if payment wasn't made.

Collins, of course, rejects this claim as fantasy. But it's been corroborated by none other than the scary-looking bald guy, Joseph Pavone, who faces federal charges in an unrelated case. "I, Joseph Pavone, was working for John P. Dana and David Collins as 'hired muscle' and as a debt collector," Pavone asserts in a recent affidavit, adding that "John P. Dana ... explained to [the accused man] that if he did not pay, that [he] and his family would be killed."

Pavone and the accused pot smuggler are not the only people who link Collins to criminal activity. His name also appears in FBI interviews with drug dealers as well as in cases involving robberies and narcotics transactions.

In at least three instances, criminal defendants in New England have alleged that Collins insinuated himself into their proceedings -- hiring their lawyers, making big promises that his law-enforcement connections could make their charges disappear -- and then demanded large amounts of money for his services.

Providence police sources say they've heard all this before. But Collins, who made sure to pal around with only the most powerful lawmen while in Rhode Island, was perceived as untouchable. "He played law enforcement up here like a violin," says one Providence cop, who asked not to be identified. "It's supposed to be the other way around."

Collins denies the accusations wholesale. In fact he says he's never met Pavone or the defendant in the federal trafficking case. His attorney, Rosenbaum, puts it this way: "These are desperate people making these claims, and they will do anything to get out of jail."

Despite being the home of the Ivy League's Brown University, Providence is still a rusty port town with a history of mob-influenced corruption that can make Miami's scandals seem quaint. (Its popular mayor, Buddy Cianci, is currently in federal prison for turning city hall into a one-stop shopping center for extortion and bribery.) In his strut and language, Collins is a native son. He grew up in tough Italian-American neighborhoods, Federal Hill and Silver Lake, where he ran petty scams in the street, according to newspaper articles and friends who knew him then. But he was apparently a kid with ambitions.

On a November afternoon in 1986, eigh-teen-year-old Collins and an accomplice walked into Abraham's Fur Salon, pointed a gun at owner Francisco Pinales, tied him up, and made off with $100,000 in furs. The same year as the fur heist, Collins was arrested in a hit-and-run incident in which he tried to bribe the victim into recanting, according to the Providence Journal-Bulletin. In 1987 he pleaded no contest to both felonies, the paper reported. (He was fined and received a suspended sentence.)

A year after that, he was arrested for torching a business, but authorities dropped the charges. "This person here is the devil," Collins told the Journal, referring to his criminal past, before he went straight. The turning point, Collins said, came when he got a job as an errand boy in the politically connected law office of Joseph Bevilacqua, a family friend whose father had been a Rhode Island Supreme Court justice forced to resign during a probe into his alleged ties to mobsters. That's when Collins found his focus. That's when he became friendly with men who wear badges.

But there might have been more than friendship involved.

Fur-store owner Pinales tells New Times that after Collins robbed him, he had a meeting with Michael Burns, who was head of the State Attorney General's criminal division, the number-two prosecutor in the state. "I was in the office and I saw him [Collins]. I got scared. I said, 'That's him! That's the guy who robbed me!' And Mr. Burns said, 'This guy's okay. He works for us now.'"

Collins denies he ever worked for prosecutors but acknowledges that Burns was a friend. In fact Burns, along with state police Lt. Anthony Pesare, who later became the department's second-in-command, testified on behalf of Collins when he successfully petitioned the courts to expunge his criminal record in 1995. From then on, Collins could say he did not have a criminal past. He was free to apply for a bail bondsman's license and a weapons permit, both of which he promptly did.

Before long he became a common sight at Providence police headquarters. Former and current cops say they often saw Collins with Urbano Prignano, who at the time was a major in charge of the narcotics unit. In some instances, they say, police would return from a drug bust and Collins would be waiting with pizza, as if he knew the bust was going down before it happened. "Collins could walk anywhere in the station," says one cop who asked not to be identified. "He had complete access."

Absurd, insists Prignano. "He didn't have no access inside the department," the retired chief retorts. "This is coming from people who don't like me. That was a very political place."

It all came to an end in 1997, when the Journal wrote a series of detailed stories exposing Collins. In their wake, Brown University studied the expungement process and concluded that up to 22 percent of the state's felony convictions had been improperly expunged over a five-year period.

The judge who'd granted Collins his bail-bond license reacted to the paper's exposé by holding a special hearing into the expungement of Collins's criminal record, a record he'd not been aware of before approving the license. Though the judge demanded his presence, Collins didn't bother attending the hearing. He surrendered his license and a short time later moved to South Florida.

"Have you ever been convicted, found guilty, or pleaded guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to a felony under the law of any municipality, county, state, territory or country whether or not a judgment of conviction has been entered?" -- Question Number 19, Section 3, State of Florida Insurance License Application.

In 1999 Collins scratched "no" in the box provided. By 2000 he was a licensed Florida bail bondsman. He settled in Deerfield Beach but set up a bail business, Universal Surety Corporation, in Miami, where there was no shortage of people in a jam with the law.

Collins may have left New England, but one man there claims the convict-turned-Miami-bail-bond-mogul remained a constant presence in his life. Arlindo DosSantos, 34 years old, is a third-generation Portuguese lobsterman from Dartmouth, Massachusetts. He was also a midlevel marijuana dealer who alleges in court documents that one of his suppliers was John P. Dana, and that Dana was partners with Collins. On August 3, 1999, FBI agents picked up DosSantos and charged him in a drug-trafficking conspiracy dating back to 1992.

DosSantos tells his story in a lengthy affidavit filed in Massachusetts federal court in July 2003. The affidavit is part of a motion to dismiss his case because of "gross government misconduct" based on the claim that Collins was working as a confidential informant for the feds while at the same time orchestrating DosSantos's defense. Parts of his narrative are corroborated by the statements of others involved. The entire document, however, is denied by Collins. "I don't even know this guy," he says, refusing further comment on the case, such as how DosSantos might know his name. Collins does admit he knew John Dana, though as "just a friend." (Dana couldn't be reached for comment, but he has never been charged with any crimes related to DosSantos's allegations.)

According to the affidavit: After his arrest, DosSantos hired an attorney and was released on $250,000 bond, using his house as collateral. Initially he agreed to cooperate with the FBI in an investigation of possible police corruption in New Bedford, where DosSantos packaged marijuana above a colleague's motorcycle shop. But he changed his mind when he became suspicious that word of his cooperation had leaked. That's when he heard from John Dana.

DosSantos says Dana (referred to as "J.D.") called and arranged a meeting: "J.D. advised me that he had a friend, a Florida bail bondsman, who had some of the best attorneys in Boston and Rhode Island working for him. ...J.D. explained that the criminal case would cost me approximately $125,000, that they would ensure that I would not receive any jail time."

DosSantos says he was told to switch to a Boston lawyer named Richard Ivker, which he did. The new attorney allegedly told him he must cooperate with the feds in the police corruption investigation because "the bail bondsman said it was necessary," according to the affidavit. (Contacted in Boston, Ivker denied DosSantos's claims as "fiction.... I am aware of the content, but it is absolutely outrageous and false, and to print it in a newspaper article would be borderline defamatory." Ivker would not say whether he knew Collins or if Collins hired him to represent DosSantos.)

In his affidavit, DosSantos states that Dana and Collins began pressing him for the money and for information about his drug contacts in other states. If he didn't come up with either, "Collins advised that my bail would be revoked and attorney Ivker would be taken off of my case." DosSantos claims that when he complained to Ivker about this, the lawyer "told me that I better comply with Collins's requests because he is a very powerful man and I should not anger him."

Scrambling for cash, DosSantos went on a week-long commercial fishing trip. The night he returned, Dana paid a visit, asking to speak privately. Waiting inside Dana's car was Joseph Pavone, a construction worker with a shaved head and pierced eyebrows. In a sworn affidavit Pavone writes, "John P. Dana requested that I accompany him to Dartmouth, Mass., for the purpose of acting as back-up in an attempt to collect a debt which Mr. DosSantos owed to David Collins. John P. Dana told me that this debt was incurred by Mr. DosSantos when David Collins hired attorney Richard Ivker to represent him in his federal case. Upon arrival at Mr. DosSantos's residence, John P. Dana began to threaten Mr. DosSantos.... He explained to Mr. DosSantos that if he did not pay, Mr. DosSantos and his family would be killed." In an attempt to buy time, DosSantos reached into his little black book and gave up the name of a marijuana contact in Tucson, Arizona. On April 3, 2000, the feds dropped all charges against him.

It appeared Collins had kept his word. Now he wanted to be paid. Under relentless pressure from Collins, DosSantos says he contacted a Miami Beach acquaintance in hopes of borrowing money. The man explained he was broke, that he'd just been robbed by someone named Joseph Alarie in a dope deal gone bad. Collins knew Alarie from New England, DosSantos writes in his affidavit, and boasted that he could get the money back: "Collins telephoned the person who committed the robbery ... and left a threatening message on his voicemail."

Apparently the threat worked. Alarie agreed to pay Collins the money, about $70,000, which would be deducted from DosSantos's debt. The Miami Beach robbery victim would also receive a cut of the payback. Not wanting to go near Alarie, DosSantos paid a friend to pick up weekly $1250 payments and deliver them to him. DosSantos then gave the money to Collins, who was staying in Rhode Island at the time. (Alarie and DosSantos's friend later were arrested. Records show that in separate interviews with FBI agents, they identified Collins by name and confirmed his payback scheme.)

Not long after his friend's arrest, DosSantos states in his affidavit, "Collins advised that if I did not pay him $200,000 then I would be arrested within six months." This time, though, the charges would come back in a more serious form -- part of a continuing criminal enterprise. By then, DosSantos says, he had paid Collins $65,000 and simply couldn't come up with cash any faster. So he stopped paying altogether.

In June 2001 the feds arrested DosSantos on the same drug charges as before, only this time, as foretold, they were listed as part of a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries far more severe penalties.

DosSantos's allegations have opened a Pandora's box for authorities and provided a treasure trove of information for other defendants, Joseph Pavone among them. Pavone was arrested in October 2001 on federal conspiracy charges in a matter unrelated to DosSantos. But very much like DosSantos's legal woes, Collins got involved. In a jailhouse telephone interview, Pavone told New Times that not only did Collins know he was going to be indicted before the information became public, but that Collins claimed he could "make it go away completely for $125,000."

Pavone ended up using attorneys connected to Collins, including Richard Ivker. "J.D. [John Dana] would tell me: 'You got to tell us everything about the case so we can tell the lawyer,'" Pavone said. It wasn't until he bumped into DosSantos at a Rhode Island prison that he learned of Collins's alleged connection to the feds and the implications for his own case. The coincidental encounter provided a bit of grim humor for the two men. The only other time they'd met was when Pavone had been hired to threaten DosSantos inside a car.

Pavone is now filing a motion to dismiss the charges against him based on Collins's involvement in his case. (Another man, Patrick Vigneau, convicted in an unrelated case in Rhode Island, is making the same claims in court documents, and is basing his appeal on them.)

According to David Collins, he has never met Arlindo DosSantos or Joseph Pavone, and the incidents alleged simply never happened. Besides, he maintains, he was too busy starting up his fledgling Miami bail business to run around New England threatening people. In fact business was brisk and about to get a lot busier. In 2001, right around the time DosSantos was rearrested, Collins leaped beyond being a mere bond hound when Seneca Insurance Company hired him as its managing general agent for all of Florida, a job that entails contracting with bondsmen to bring him their business.

Collins continued operating his own bail-bond company, Universal Surety, and quickly made a name for himself as a guy willing to gamble on the big numbers -- and win. "He writes bonds that other bondsmen are not willing to write," says Nathaniel Sala-Suarez, a bondsman who routinely works with Collins. "Some people are ballsy and some people are stupid. He's not stupid."

Collins scored a coup, as well, when he hired Sally Burt as his director of operations. Prior to joining Collins in January 2003, Burt had spent eighteen years regulating the bail-bond industry for the state Department of Insurance (now a division of the Financial Services Department). But her hiring was immediately controversial, largely because she had conducted a series of audits of bondsmen and insurance companies in Miami-Dade County shortly before quitting. Competitor National Surety has sued for "interference with a business relationship," claiming she took proprietary financial information with her to Collins, giving him an unfair business advantage. The suit is pending.

There is another area in which Collins has scored well: persuading judges to vacate bonds after a client has disappeared.

When a defendant skips bail and flees, the bondsman has 60 days to produce him. If the defendant hasn't been found by the deadline, the bond company forfeits the bond and must pay the full amount to the county. That doesn't mean the bondsman can't retrieve his money. The courts allow up to two years to find the defendant, and can refund on a sliding scale up to 85 percent of the bond after the first year and 50 percent of the money after the second year. Another option is for the bond company to notify the criminal court that it wants to argue in civil court why it shouldn't have to forfeit the bond. (The civil-court process is known as estreature.) In either case, law requires the bond to be paid in full in the criminal court until the matter is resolved.

There are legitimate reasons for a bond to be vacated. State law says that if the bond company isn't notified of a defendant's court hearing, and thus is not able to ensure the defendant's attendance, or if authorities increase the charges against a defendant without informing the bond company, then the company is not responsible should the defendant flee.

Under Collins's direction, Seneca frequently won its estreature cases. New Times analyzed two years of these court hearings, comparing Seneca with two other large bond writers, American Banker and Ranger Insurance.

In 2002: Ranger challenged 58 bonds that had gone into forfeiture in Miami-Dade County, worth a combined $117,000. Judges vacated 33 of them, saving Ranger from having to pay $86,500. American Banker challenged 102 bonds, worth $190,000. Judges vacated 54 bonds worth $152,000. Collins, acting on behalf of Seneca, challenged 60 forfeitures worth $200,000. Judges vacated 49 of them, saving the company $190,000.

In 2003: American Banker filed 55 estreature cases worth a total of $97,000. Judges vacated 44 of them, saving the company $81,000. Ranger challenged 86 bonds, worth $173,000, and won 54 of them, a savings of $144,000.

In terms of dollar amount, Seneca far outstripped its competitors last year. It challenged 128 bonds valued at $913,000, and judges vacated 94 of them, saving the company $833,000, nearly ten times the amount of its competitors.

The biggest of those bonds was $400,000 for client Angel Cabrera. Police in Hanover, Massachusetts, arrested Cabrera on February 24, 2003, during an alleged $500,000 cash-for-cocaine transaction with two Colombians. Cabrera was extradited to Miami because the case originated here. On June 11 Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Maria Espinosa Dennis released him on the $400,000 bond. Cabrera promptly disappeared. When he didn't show for an August 11, 2003, hearing, the office of the Miami-Dade Clerk of the Courts sent a "Notice and Forfeiture of Bail Bond" to Collins's office at 1540 NW 15th Street Rd.

All such forfeiture notices are generated by computers in the clerk's office. Scores of them are produced each day and sent out via the U.S. Postal Service. But the notice regarding the Cabrera bond forfeiture contained an address error. It read: 1540 NW 15th Street R (instead of "Road"). The postal service, however, did not return the notice to the clerk's office as "undeliverable." Collins, through his Miami attorney, argued before Judge Peter Lopez that his office never received it.

The county attorney's office assigns a single lawyer to manage all estreature cases, more than a thousand each year. Rashmi Airan-Pace, the assistant county attorney in charge at the time, says she challenged Collins and Seneca in the Cabrera case, but to no avail. "At no point did I agree to vacate this bond," she recounts. "I opposed it, I set it for hearing, and I argued that there was sufficient notice." But Judge Lopez wasn't persuaded and vacated the bond this past December. Collins and Seneca were off the hook for $400,000.

If Collins did not receive the forfeiture notice as he claimed in court, and if the post office did not return it as undeliverable, it likely ended up with Joanne Monrabal, who lives at 1540 NW 15th St. In fact Monrabal says she's been receiving mail for Collins's company, Universal Surety, for the year she's been living there -- including August 2003, when the clerk's office mailed the $400,000 forfeiture notice. "Yeah, back in August I got tons of their mail," she recalls. "I would take it all back to them. I kept telling them to do something about this. I mean, these are official court notices and checks, letters from the clerk of courts. Not once did someone from there come and ask if we had any mail for them.

"It's a real problem," Monrabal says in exasperation. She stopped hand-delivering mail to Universal Surety this past January because "they didn't seem to care." Instead she began taking it to the post office to be returned. She was diligent about it. "I felt like it was my civic duty," she explains, "because these are citations and court notices, these are people who could go to jail if they don't get this stuff, and it's the bail bondsman's job to make sure they appear in court."

When competing bondsmen around the county learned of Collins's courtroom victory in the Cabrera case, they were stunned. "He never has to pay his bonds," says one who asked not to be identified. At least that's the impression in the bail-bond community. Because estreatures are assigned to civil court judges randomly, the bondsmen's rancor turned to the county attorney's office.

At the time the $400,000 bond was vacated, Airan-Pace had been handling estreatures for about a year, along with five or six other assignments. She says that when she took the bond assignment, she was directed by more senior attorneys in handling estreatures. "I was told if there were sufficient grounds per statute to agree to vacate, then we would agree to vacate [without a court hearing]," she explains. "I got those directions from the two attorneys who did bonds before me. This was because there were so many bond cases. We got like 25 to 30 a week." The work, she adds, is "time-consuming, cumbersome, and detail-oriented."

Airan-Pace left the county attorney's office in February to enter private practice. Since then the county's procedures have been changed. Her former boss, Miami-Dade County Attorney Robert Ginsburg, concedes that his office has been receiving complaints about the way bond cases are managed. "We have assigned this area to a new lawyer, Scott Mario, and he's taking a whole fresh look at it," Ginsburg says. The office is now opposing more bond estreatures. They've also concluded that many of the civil court hearings have been proceeding improperly. According to the law, before a bond company can initiate an estreature case, it must deposit with the county the full amount of the bond in question. Miami-Dade's circuit court judges, for some reason, have not been enforcing that requirement.

Within months of taking over, Mario challenged a $150,000 Collins/Seneca bond in which Collins's attorney claimed the company had not been notified of all pertinent hearings. Mario argued that the claims were frivolous and that the company received plenty of notice. He also pointed out that the bond money had not been deposited with the county as required, and so it was premature to hold an estreature hearing. The judge denied Seneca's appeal and in May ordered the company to pay the bond in full. When Seneca didn't pay by the deadline, state regulators suspended the company's license to write bonds. Seneca is, at least temporarily, out of business in Florida.

Throughout 2003, Arlindo DosSantos's new lawyer, Robert Goldstein, pressed the motion to dismiss the criminal case against his client based on government misconduct. Several times he has tried to serve David Collins with a subpoena to appear in court, but with no luck. "In my opinion he avoided the process servers," Goldstein says. The judge in the case has agreed that Collins's testimony is necessary and demanded that the government bring him to Massachusetts. "The U.S. Attorney's Office agreed they would produce him, but Collins told them he was unable to travel for 60 days starting October 12," Goldstein recounts. The feds then agreed to produce Collins by December 9, 2003.

Just before that date, the government instead made DosSantos an offer: If he dropped the misconduct dismissal motion, they would drop their opposition to releasing him on bail. DosSantos accepted and was set free without bail and without travel restrictions. His lawyer won't comment, but that type of leniency commonly suggests that plea negotiations are under way.

Last month Joseph Pavone was released on bail while the court reviews his own misconduct allegations involving Collins.

When Collins learned New Times was working on a story about him, his Miami lawyers threatened to sue the paper if it published allegations that he was an informant for various law enforcement agencies. When tough didn't work, he tried nice, purchasing full-page advertisements in New Times touting his bond company's "honest services" and alerting readers to "look for our upcoming article on South Florida's most successful and #1 bail bonds company."

Meanwhile Seneca doesn't appear to be in a hurry to pay its forfeited $150,000 bond. At press time its license was still suspended. Not one to be deterred, Collins has signed on as managing general agent for another insurance company, Indiana Lumbermans.

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