Bondsman hired by Ellis was unlicensed

Published 2:25 pm Friday, July 13, 2012

The bail bonding agent who attempted to post bond for accused rapist Andre Ellis could now be facing trouble of his own.

According to the Pike County Sheriff’s Department, Cornelius Collins with Alternative Justice Bail Bonding, failed to renew his surety agent’s license which expired on March 2, 2012.

Thomas said a surety agent’s license is valid for two years and subject to renewal based on date of birth.

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“If I would have allowed Andre Ellis to be released and he failed to show up for court, there would have possibly been no one for the Pike County Courts to issue a forfeiture against for $326,250,” said Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas. “If his bond had been approved, an accused rapist would have been allowed to go free, causing great fear in our community.”

Thomas became the center of controversy earlier this week for openly stating he was not going to allow Ellis out on bond because Alternative Justice already had about $1 million worth of bonds in Pike County. Thomas said he wasn’t comfortable with the surety of a bond the company wanted to post on behalf of Ellis.

Ellis is accused of raping two women on the same day in Hunter’s Mountain Mobile Estates off U.S. Highway 231 in Troy. The rapes happened on March 26 and he was charged almost a month later on April 25.

Ellis is being held on seven bonds – two for rape charges, one for a burglary charge, one regarding a theft of property charge and three instances of worthless check charges.

“As I have stated earlier,” Thomas said, “Andre Ellis cannot make bond because the bond is not a good surety. This department has initiated an investigation, but at this point, this is all I can say at this time.”

Thomas said he has been in contact with the Alabama Department of Insurance and is consulting with their agency.

According to Thomas, the sheriff’s department does not approve bonding companies or agents to make bonds. That is outside the scope of the department’s authority.

What does Collin’s lack of license mean for the people who were his clients after March 2?

“All the bonds that were done by him were done illegally, so they potentially could have to turn themselves in and rebond through a licensed bonding company,” said Jimmie Lay, co-owner of First Choice Bail Bonds in Jefferson County.

Lay also said Collins could face charges for practicing without a license and be sued by the clients he fraudulently bailed out of area jails.

“He took money from all those people,” Lay said. “They have the right to sue him.”

On Tuesday, Collins told The Messenger he was eligible to write up to $1 million single bonds and he disagreed with the sheriff’s question of bond surety, stating he was “not concerned because I know I can.”

Also on Tuesday, Ellis’ attorney J. Carlton Taylor expected to file a writ of Habeas corpus on Wednesday that would require Ellis be brought before a judge to decide his bond fate. According to court records, Taylor had not filed any documents as of 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Ellis is due in court again on July 17 concerning a theft of property charge.