News and Press Releases

Portsmouth Bail Bondsman Sentenced to 30 Months for Bribing Public Officials

November 2, 2012

NORFOLK, Va. – A bail bondsman in Portsmouth, Va., was sentenced today to serve 30 months in prison for bribing public officials in exchange for receiving favorable treatment, announced U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

            Ulysses “Tugger” Stephenson, 51, of Portsmouth, was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.  In addition to his prison term, Stephenson was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release.

            Stephenson pleaded guilty on July 26, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and one count of federal programs bribery.

            According to court documents, Stephenson earned money as a bail bondsman by charging arrestees a percentage of the amount of bond set by a magistrate.  In order to obtain additional clients and thereby maximize his profits, Stephenson gave cash and gifts to Deborah Clark – a Portsmouth magistrate who pleaded guilty to bribery and was sentenced last month to 12 months in prison – in exchange for her referring arrestees to him as prospective clients and accepting his advice on the amount of bond to set in particular cases.  From January 2009 through February 2012, Stephenson gave Clark up to $150 per month as well as expense money for trips and numerous cash payments for gas and meals.  Additionally, according to court documents, from January 2009 through July 2010, Stephenson made cash payments of up to $150 per week to an employee in the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office in exchange for referrals.

            Stephenson is subject to prosecution for bribery under a federal statute because the two people he admitted to bribing 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 U.S. 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 Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case.

            A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at or on


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