News and Press Releases

Portsmouth Bail Bondsman Pleads Guilty to Bribing Public Officials

July 26, 2012

NORFOLK, Va. – A bail bondsman in Portsmouth, Va., pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of Virginia for bribing public officials in exchange for receiving favorable treatment.  Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division made the announcement today.

            Ulysses “Tugger” Stephenson, 52, of Portsmouth, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bradford Stillman.  The sentencing is scheduled in front of U.S. District Judge Rebecca Smith on November 2, 2012.

            Stephenson was charged in a criminal information filed on July 9, 2012, with one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and one count of federal programs bribery.  He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy, and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the bribery. 

            According to a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Stephenson earned money by charging arrestees a percentage of the amount of bond set by a magistrate.  Thus, the larger the bond amount set, and the more arrestees that were referred to him as prospective clients, the more money Stephenson would earn.  To obtain additional clients and therefore maximize his profits, Stephenson gave cash and gifts to Deborah Clark—a local magistrate who pleaded guilty to federal programs bribery on May 2, 2012—in exchange for her referring arrestees as prospective clients and seeking and accepting Stephenson’s advice on the amount of bond to set in particular cases.  During this time period, Stephenson gave up to $150 per month to Clark, as well as expense money for trips and numerous cash payments for gas and meals.  Additionally, in exchange for referrals, Stephenson made cash payments to an officer in the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office.  From January 2009 through July 2010, he paid that officer up to $150 per week.

            Stephenson is subject to prosecution for bribery under a federal statute because the two people he bribed were agents of an organization or state receiving annual benefits in excess of $10,000 under federal programs involving grants and other forms of assistance.       

            This case was investigated by the FBI.  Assistant United States Attorney Alan M. Salsbury and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy E. Cross of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorneys Peter Mason and Monique Abrishami of the Public Integrity Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and are prosecuting the case.


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