Oklahoma's largest bail bond insurer to cease operations in state

Wednesday, August 4th 2004, 5:51 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The state's largest bail bond insurer plans to fire all 80 of its Oklahoma agents and cease writing bail bonds in the state after a controversy over questionable court orders in Oklahoma County, a company official said.

Dudley Goolsby Jr., Ranger Insurance Co.'s managing general agent for Oklahoma, sent out notices to all Ranger agents Tuesday directing them to immediately cease writing bail bonds on Ranger's behalf.

Goolsby said the decision to pull out of the state was "a corporate decision."

"They're just not going to write bail in Oklahoma any more," Goolsby said.

The court orders and actions by Oklahoma County judges and court clerk employees forgave Ranger from paying hundreds of bond forfeitures totaling more than $1 million. Ranger has been forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in forfeitures as part of an ensuing crackdown on bond forfeiture abuses in Oklahoma County.

The FBI, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and state Auditor and Inspector's Office all have been investigating the situation.

Ranger has about $65 million in outstanding bail bonds, but the company's exit should not create a crisis in the ability of people to obtain bail bonds, said Michael Ridgeway, Oklahoma Insurance Department attorney.

Ridgeway said Ranger declared its intention to pull out of Oklahoma during a status conference Monday in which it discussed its progress in complying with a consent order to resolve more than $1.5 million in unpaid bond forfeitures in the state by Nov. 1.

The company must resolve all the cases either by paying the forfeitures or persuading judges to forgive the payments. The company met a requirement to resolve one-fourth of the cases by Monday, Ridgeway said.

"I'm encouraged by the fact Ranger is going to send people to Oklahoma to grab a hold of this and solve the problem," Ridgeway said.

Ranger officials indicated they may come back in the state after problems have been resolved, Ridgeway said.

Goolsby, who will also stop writing bail bonds for Ranger in Oklahoma, said most agents who write bail bonds for Ranger also write bonds for other companies.