by Sherryl Connelly)
As New York's most famous — some would say shameless — bail bondsman, Ira Judelson hands get-out-of-jail cards to star athletes, big-name rappers, mobsters and famous hookers alike.
He says it himself. He’s a “legal loan shark.”
In his new book “The Fixer: The Notorious Life of a Front Page Bail Bondsman,” Judelson dishes on the famous, and infamous, clients he’s offered his special services, from an easier ride through the courts to a better life in prison. It seems he always knows someone, from a guard to a gangbanger, who can get things done.
Judelson ranks Ja Rule as his most famous rapper client, though he’s also fronted Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Lil’ Wayne for bail. Ja was busted with Lil’ Wayne after a show at the Beacon Theater on gun and drug charges in 2007.
The bondsman thought he’d have Ja, his uncle and the limo driver, also up on charges, out in a couple of hours. But a “crazy” judge decided to stick it to them with high bail: $250,000, $100,000 and $25,000 respectively.
It took a little longer, but with Ja’s $2 million house in New Jersey as security, Judelson got things done. Still, the rapper also surrendered his passport as part of the deal, so every time he left the country on tour he’d call to make sure that Judelson would assure the court he was cool with Ja’s travels.
The two improbably became friends. Ja wore one of Judelson’s “Got Bail” T-shirts to the BET awards that year and it got great buzz. Sometimes he’d call just to chat up Judelson about his other clients, the New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress and Lil’ Wayne, both facing the similar charges.
Judelson says the three kept a close eye on each other’s cases.
Ja also sent business Judelson’s way.
“Fifty Cent’s people started calling me. Fabolous. Fat Joe. Got to the point where they had me on speed dial, man, and it all flowed from Ja,” he writes.
Ja began serving a two-year bit in 2011. The rapper and the bondsman still talk when they can and write to each other all the time.
DMX came Judelson’s way in 2004, facing charges of criminal possession of a weapon, criminal impersonation, criminal mischief, menacing, DUI and possession of cocaine. He had crashed his SUV through a parking lot at JFK after telling the guard he was a federal agent. He used the same line when he tried to commandeer a stranger’s car. The cops found a billy club and cocaine in his vehicle.
Judelson first met up with the rapper at a pizzeria outside the courthouse and noticed something was off with the guy when he lifted a slice so hot that it sizzled his lips yet still kept eating. The bondsman would nag the rapper to get straight. DMX seemed touched by his concern.
Certainly, the guy was good for repeat business. After getting a conditional discharge on the JFK arrest, parking tickets and driving with a suspended license brought him back before the judge.
But DMX had been tardy in paying Judelson, which led to a peculiar scene where the rapper crashed a child’s birthday party.
DMX finally showed up with some money on the day Judelson and his family were attending his niece’s birthday party at the Danbury mall. Judelson reasonably thought that DMX, who was there with his family too, would make payment and move on. But when the scofflaw rapper found out where the party was, he got all excited.
“F-----’ Build-A-Bear, man. My kids love that s---.”
The rapper disappeared, only to make a grand entrance at the party with a pile of gifts from Toys ‘R’ Us. The kids had no idea who he was, but the parents were jazzed. So were the hundreds of shoppers who pressed up against the glass storefront, some taking pictures.
“Changed the whole tone of my niece’s birthday party,” Judelson wryly notes.
In the end, DMX skipped out on his $25,000 bond, but Judelson still remembers him fondly.
Judelson, who describes himself as a shameless self-promoter, says rappers, athletes, drug dealers and high-profile mob guys are all good for business — but prostitutes are by far the best.
He chased Anna Gristina, who became known as the “Soccer Mom Madam,” after she was charged with running a multi-million dollar brothel in Manhattan in 2012. The $2 million bail wasn’t a problem — but her lawyers were.
Gristina ran through four or five lawyers by Judelson’s count. The first, Peter Gleason, Judelson describes as a “little screwy.” Gleason wanted to put up his Tribeca loft as collateral, thereby saving his client the bondsman fee.
When lawyer Gary Greenwald joined the case, things got weirder. “These two lawyers didn’t always agree and I could never predict what they’d pull next,” Judelson writes.
So Judelson reached out to the madam’s husband, Kelvin Gorr, while Gristina stayed in Rikers refusing to give the prosecutors what they wanted — names from her little black book. Still, it looked as if another bail package would set Gristina free when suddenly she renounced it.
“I had never heard of something like this, couldn’t believe it — I couldn’t even understand it,” Judelson writes.
By then, Judelson didn’t even know which attorney to call. Gristina had cycled through several, “each hanging on to some piece of the business.”
From what her husband said, it seemed that she was hiding out behind bars from her lawyers, at least those who wanted a piece of her — a book deal, a tabloid exclusive, rights to her life story.
“Got to where the only place she felt safe and whole was behind bars, just out of reach.”
Judelson ended up fronting $150,000 of the bail package from his own pocket. He figured there was no chance Gristina would jump bail and not only would he reap his full fee, the publicity would be an additional bonanza.
In another tabloid-tastic case, Judelson almost saw Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s $5 million bail bond get away from him.
Getting in on the deal was a “wild ride” after the managing director of the International Monetary Fund was pulled off a Paris-bound plane and charged with the sexual assault and attempted rape of chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo at the Sofitel New York hotel in 2011.
The bondsman was thick with DSK’s lawyers, but for a while it appeared Anna Sinclair — a prominent French journalist, an heiress and Strauss-Kahn’s wife — had the money to post cash bail. The speculation about how high the bail would go kept escalating, though, so Judelson kept hope alive.
Sinclair had $2 million cash at the ready, but when bail came in at $1 million cash and a $5 million bond, Judelson offered to take a couple points off his fee (6%) to get in on the deal.
That didn’t work out so well. To make up the difference, he put the $3 million cash he received as collateral into a CD on which he was charged heavy penalities when the case against Strauss-Kahn was dropped. Fortunately, DSK’s camp stepped up and covered the losses.
Judelson remembers the beautiful and elegant Sinclair telling him she was willing to risk so much for her husband because “I believe in this man.”
But they have since divorced in the wake of revelations that linked DSK to orgies, sex trafficking and prostitution rings.