PHOENIX – An anonymous tip via text led a group of armed bounty hunters to swarm the Phoenix police chief’s home in search of a fugitive, the owner of a bond-recovery company said in a jailhouse interview.
Brent Farley told Phoenix news station KNXV-TV that the group would not have gone to Chief Joe Yahner’s home if they had known it was his. He also said it is always possible tips he receives won’t be good.
“Part of the process is knocking on doors,” Farley said. “There are times when they haven’t been there for a couple years and the information we have is bad.”
He said he thought he was in jail because the bad tip led to Yahner.
“Again, the reason why we are here isn’t because of the door knock, but because of who answered the door,” Farley said.
Officers responded to a 911 call from Yahner’s home Tuesday night, finding it surrounded by armed employees of two bond-recovery companies. At least one armed bondsman banged on Yahner’s door and got into a verbal confrontation with the chief, demanding that Yahner come out, investigators said.
Farley was arrested and is facing one count each of disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing.
Farley said he had posted a Facebook note about a fugitive wanted in Oklahoma on drug charges and then received an anonymous text from an Oklahoma phone number saying that person was at the police chief’s house.
“They wanted to remain anonymous,” Farley said of the exchange with the tipster.
Police previously said the tip came through social media and that investigators planned to serve subpoenas as part of an investigation that could take weeks.
The Arizona Department of Insurance, which keeps a registry of licensed bail bond agents and registered bail recovery agents in the state, did not have Farley’s name on file.
“We have no record of a Brent Farley ever applying for a registration or license,” department spokesman Andrew Carlson said.
Farley told The Arizona Republic that others in the group are licensed and would have made any arrests.
“I was basically one more body,” he said, adding that he went along as support.
Prospective bounty hunters, or bail recovery agents, must qualify for a registration, according to the Department of Insurance. The requirements include being at least 18 years old, obtaining a fingerprint card and passing a background check.
Farley pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in a case of theft and in a case of sexual conduct with a minor in the 1990s, Maricopa County court records indicated. Police, however, said they were not yet aware of anything precluding Farley from owning a firearm.
Joe Burns, the former president of the Arizona Bail Bondsmen Association, said the incident underscores the need for Arizona to require training for bounty hunters. Anyone can obtain a registration and “walk out, go to the local gun shop, buy a gun, handcuffs, and ‘Now I’m a bounty hunter,’ ” Burns said.
Burns said he has lobbied for legislation in recent years that would mandate training and continuing education in the bail bonds industry. Other states such as California require training and licensing for the industry, but Arizona has no framework, he said.
“Basically, it’s the Wild West,” Burns said. “That’s what you had at the police chief’s house.”