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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Thursday, April 15, 1999

Tennessee bail law delays Herrera release

By JON FULBRIGHT
Staff Writer
PECOS, April 15, 1999 -- Pecos bail bondsman Jose T. "Joey" Herrera Jr. may soon be out of a Nashville jail, where he has been held for the past 2 1/2 weeks on charges of fabricating evidence and money laundering.

But before Davidson County District Judge Cheryl Blackburn accepts a cash bond for Herrera's $50,000 bail, she needs to know where the money came from.

A Tennessee law requires documentation in open court of the source of funds used to secure the appearance bond, Judge Blackburn wrote in the court order she released on Monday. In her order, the judge also rebuked Reeves County Court-at-Law Judge Lee Green for freeing Herrera on a $25,000 bond on March 18.

Herrera has been in Metro Nashville Davidson County Jail after appearing as scheduled at a hearing before Judge Blackburn on March 30. Tennessee bail bondsmen were unable to post the 10 percent cash required for Herrera's $500,000 bail, said John Zimmerman, the senior assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the case for the Davidson County Criminal Court.

Zimmerman said that Tennessee law requires that bondsmen post cash or actual property to secure bail. He said Tuesday the cash needed for Herrera's release has been posted from a Pecos source, and his release will be granted once the source of the funds are certified by Judge Blackburn.

One Nashville bondsman was prepared to post $250,000 or less at the time of Herrera's first court appearance, but not $500,000, Zimmerman said earlier this month.

Herrera is charged by indictment with three counts of fabricating evidence, conspiracy to fabricate evidence, and money laundering. Two others working for a Nashville bonding company were arrested on Dec. 11, 1998 in connection with an alleged scheme in which phony death certificates were created for two men who were bonded out of jail in Nashville and then fled to Mexico.

In her April 12 order setting the appearance bond, Judge Blackburn said she set is at $500,000 because of the possibility either Herrera would flee to Mexico or that, if an arrest warrant was issued in Texas, he would not remain in custody pending his return to Tennessee.

"Taken together with his lack of legitimate financial resources, access to approximately $150,000 in cash derived from the scheme that remains in the exclusive control of the defendant and lack of ties to any immediate family members, it is obvious the defendant would have little to lose were he to flee to Mexico, a country with a non-existent record for extradition to the United States," Judge Blackburn wrote.

The judge's statement contradicted Herrera's testimony during his March 30 hearing, in which he told the court he has cash on hand of between $4,000 and $8,000, owned a modest house in Pecos, a 1989 automobile and his insurance and bonding company.

Texas homestead laws prevent homes from being used as bond collateral, and Blackburn said no financial statement was given for the insurance agency.

The two other people charged in the case, Paul's Bonding manager Peggy W. Coleman, 52, and agent James Mitchell (Wolf) Ferrell, 39, were arrested on Dec. 11, 1998 during a raid on the company's office by Nashville vice division detectives, according to the (Nashville) Tennessean. Their arrest came three months prior to Herrera's arrest, and both were later released on $250,000 bond.

Judge Blackburn wrote in her order that Paul's Bonding allegedly paid Herrera $12,000 to produce death certificates for Louis Rodriguez and $12,500 for a death certificate for George Wiebe in June and September of last year.

After Ferrell and Coleman were arrested, Nashville Police set up a sting in February, in which officials at Paul's Bonding contacted Herrera and asked him to provide a death certificate for a third man, Reyes Castro.

"The defendant sent the phony death certificate to Nashville. However, the defendant mistakenly entered the date of Castro's death prior to Castro's last appearance in court, when Castro was released on bond," Judge Blackburn wrote.

The judge's report continued that, after officials from Nashville and Pecos placed Herrera under arrest on March 15, "The defendant initially admitted to the officers that he had produced each of the death certificates and sent them to Paul's Bonding Company in Nashville. He claimed, however, that he had purchased each death certificate individually at a border town for $4,000."

"However, when police executed the search warrant at his residence they found numerous blank death certificates with sequence numbers stamped on each form which were consistent with the sequence numbers used in the three previously submitted death certificates. The defendant later admitted that he did not purchase the death certificates but rather forged and fabricated them in Pecos," Judge Blackburn said in her appearance order.

Herrera was released from Reeves County Jail after posting the bond set by Judge Green, which drew a rebuke from the Nashville judge.

"This is clearly contrary for the law of this State (Texas) and the United States Constitution," she wrote, saying that since Green denied Herrera a writ of habeas corpus, he should have remained in Reeves County Jail pending extradition to Tennessee.

Zimmerman said the case is being heard by Judge Blackburn because the other three Davidson County criminal court judges had the phony death certificates presented in their courts.

If Herrera is convicted, he could be sentenced from 8-30 years on the money laundering count, 3-15 years on each of the three fabricating evidence counts and 2-12 years for conspiracy to fabricate evidence, Zimmerman said.

Late filers face early deadline in Pecos

From Staff and Wire Reports
If you haven't sent in your tax forms, you better do it before 4:30 p.m. today unless you plan a long drive out of Pecos.

Today is April 15 tax day a day a lot of people dread.

Some Post Offices are offering to stay open late in order to accommodate those who have left this crucial task for the very last. The regional Post Office just east of Midland International Airport will be open from 10 p.m. until midnight, however the Pecos Post Office will only be open for normal operational hours.

"We'll be open our normal hours, which means they have to come in here before 4:30 p.m.," said post office employee Herman Armendariz.

H&R Block has been busy all day, with late filers coming in to the office and others just in to pick up their returns.

"All I've been doing all day, is late filers," said H&R Block office manager Pat Salisbury. "Other staff members have been assisting those picking up their returns."

The office will be open until 6 p.m., for those who still haven't gotten their paperwork together.

"Some people come in here before 5 p.m. so that they can drop it in the outside box at the post office," said Salisbury. "While I've known others who drive all the way to Midland to beat the deadline."

She said they have been extremely busy today and expect it to be steady throughout the day.

For those who can't meet tonight's deadline, the Internal Revenue Service said they should file for an extension using Form 4868 and pay the IRS as much of your estimated bill as possible to avoid interest and penalties.

You can also pay by MasterCard, American Express or Discover card by calling 1-888-2PAYTAX for a 2.5 percent fee.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, taxpayers with the median family income about $39,000 in 1999 will pay 18.9 percent of their income in all federal taxes this year. That compares to 19.7 percent in 1995, and is about $400 less.

That might provide some small comfort as people rush to one of the hundreds of larger post offices that will stay open late, many until midnight local time, to handle the crush of up to 40 million state and federal tax returns to be dispatched today.

The IRS expects to receive 126 million individual income tax returns this year, with total income taxes projected at $828.6 billion. That's just under half the $1.7 trillion in overall federal tax collections used to pay for everything from cruise missiles to food stamps.

Working people pay more in U.S. taxes than more than 40,000 foreign-controlled corporations operating in this country. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, reported Wednesday that tax loopholes allowed a majority of foreign-based companies to escape any taxes in 1995 a loss to the government estimated at $35 billion a year.

"It's part of citizenship here, but these corporations are getting by in many cases with a free ride," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who released the study.

Still, mainly because of new child and education credits, Americans are enjoying much larger refunds $1,563 on average, 15 percent above last year. And they've used computers to electronically file 21.1 million returns, almost 24 percent more than last year.

But the jury is still out on whether the much-publicized IRS reform law is making the agency treat taxpayers better. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Roth, whose hearings last year helped spark the reforms, said he believes only about 20 percent of all IRS employees support the changes.

"Typically, a bureaucracy will say, `We'll just wait it out,"' said Roth, R-Del. "We're talking about changing attitudes."

IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti, however, told the Finance Committee on Wednesday that key changes include a new service-oriented mission statement, ways to rate employees that don't include enforcement quotas and a reorganization to create four separate operations aimed at individual taxpayers, small businesses, large corporations and tax-exempt entities.

"There's very little doubt that real change is occurring," said Rossotti, who has been in his position 17 months. "We have only just begun."

For those who cannot pay, the IRS has relaxed its "offer-in-compromise" program to let more taxpayers negotiate a lower settlement of their tax bills. Rossotti promised the new rules would prevent a duplication of last year's 80,000 rejections out of 105,000 offers.

Installment agreements are also easier to get. In almost all cases, the IRS will automatically accept a request for an installment plan attach Form 9465 to your return to request one as long as the amount owed is $25,000 or less and the taxpayer agrees to pay within five years.

More and more people are depending on professional tax preparers to do their taxes an estimated 61 million returns this year. One big reason is the tax code's complexity, which Congress increased the past two years with more than 1,200 tax law changes.

It is unclear whether taxpayers will have to deal with more changes next year. Congressional Republicans are pushing through budget blueprints that call for some $800 billion in tax relief over the next decade, but there is very little money for tax cuts in fiscal 2000 alone.

Yet anti-tax sentiment continues to run high on Capitol Hill. Coinciding with the tax deadline, the House today was planning to debate for the fifth year in a row a proposed constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of Congress to pass most tax increases. The measure has no chance of passing.

Commissioners hold meeting on RCDC staff

PECOS, April 15, 1999 -- An emergency Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting will be held today at 2 p.m., to discus the Reeves County Detention Center Management and Organization.

The meeting will be held behind closed doors under the Texas Government Section 551.075 on the third floor of the courthouse.

U.S. 285 closing for road race in Pecos County

PECOS, April 15, 1999 -- Anyone headed towards Sanderson, Del Rio or the Lower Reio Grande Valley on Saturday is remined by the Texas Department of Transportation that U.S. 285 between Fort Stockton and Sanderson will be closed from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the Second Annual Big Bend Open Road Race.

The classic race car event will take place Saturday afternoon. Regular traffic will be diverted during the day either to U.S. 385 between Fort Stockton and Marathon, or to State Highway 349 between Interstate 10 and Dryden. Truck traffic is urged to use the U.S. 385 route between I-10 and U.S. 90.

Lotto

AUSTIN (AP) No ticket correctly matched all six numbers drawn Wednesday night for the twice-weekly Lotto Texas game, state lottery officials said. The ticket was worth an estimated $4 million. The numbers drawn Wednesday night from a field of 50 were: 2-3-10-22-34-41.

***

AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Wednesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 3-8-7 (three, eight, seven)

Obituary

Lucia Orona

Funeral service are incomplete for Lucia Orona, 80, who died this morning at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.

Services will be under the direction of Pecos Funeral Home.

Weather

PECOS, April 15, 1999 -- High Wednesday 86. Low this morning 41. Forecast for tonight: Clear and cold. Low around 40. Northeast wind 10-20 mph. Friday, mostly sunny. High near 65. Northeast wind 5-15 mph.



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