The Tidwell Legacy

BY Barb Stanton

The San Bernardino County District attorney’s Office has filed indictments against 15 people - including the son of former San Bernardino County top cop Floyd Tidwell.

His son, Daniel Tidwell, 53, and Daniels wife, Shirley Tidwell, 47, have been charged with two counts of conspiracy relating to unlawful solicitation of bail bonds and one count of unlawful solicitation of bail bonds - among other charges. The Tidwells are connected with three bail-bonds companies and accused of illegally soliciting bail-bond business at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

Added to the charges for Daniel Tidwell are indictments on two counts of possessing assault weapons, one count of receiving stolen property - a gun - and one count of grand theft of a firearm. Shirley Tidwell has been indicted on several counts relating to unlawful notary practices, filling false or forged documents and perjury.

Last week 15 defendants appeared in San Bernardino County Superior Court. All indicted on charges alleging participation in a scheme to corner the county’s market on bail bonds.

Three bail bond companies - Boone’s Bail Bond - Arzate Bail Bond - and Bail Hotline are accused of offering inmates cash kickbacks, three-way phone calls and lower bail premiums for their help in soliciting bond customers.

Weekly meetings were held by Tidwell and his employees to determine how they could utilized the inmates at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga to solicit business for them, according to court documents.

The three bail bonds companies offered incentives like, three-way phone calls and lower bail premiums. The phone bills at Boone’s Bail Bonds were ranging around $15,000 per month while the scam was running unfettered, according to authorities. San Bernardino County District Attorneys are still trying to figure out how much money the bail-bonds companies raked in.

Steven Tidwell, another son of the former Sheriff and owner of Tidwell Bail Bonds, pleaded guilty in 2004 after being charged with unlawfully soliciting bail, in exchange for a lighter jail sentence. He testified against the other 11 defendants connected to the case.

The saga began unraveling in January 2004 when investigators raided the homes of the Tidwell brothers looking for evidence of the bail-bonds scheme. During the raids they found 24 guns reportedly given to them by their father.

Due to the involvement of former sheriff Tidwell - the Tidwell brothers - and the number of people involved -the case quickly garnered widespread attention.

Also charged in January 2004 - Attorney Geoffery Newman of Rancho Cucamonga, and Mike Steele, of Hesperia, a former sheriff’s deputy.

Floyd Tidwell was charged with several counts of concealing stolen property and accused of taking more than 500 guns from the Sheriff’s Department’s property room - all while serving San Bernardino County at the top cop. Tidwell struck a deal with prosecutors in exchange for cooperating with the investigation and helping retrieve some of the missing guns. Tidwell pled guilty to four felony counts of concealing stolen property.

When challenged about the delay in the case prosecutor Bill Lee recently commented that, “the case got stuck in the system.”

All 15 defendants appeared in San Bernardino Superior Court last week but arraignments were delayed until attorneys could be secured by some of them. All have been charged with two counts of conspiracy relating to unlawful solicitation of bail bonds and one count of unlawful solicitation of bail bonds. The Tidwells, Daniel and Shirley have the additional charges.

All the defendants are facing a maximum of three years in prison if convicted. Daniel’s could received sixteen months more for his additional charges.

In 2004 it was discovered through the bail bond scheme and the raid that the family had the weapons and that’s when former sheriff Floyd Tidwell came into play. Floyd Tidwell pleaded guilty to a reduced charge for cooperating with the investigation and for promising to return the missing weapons...unfortunately for the people of San Bernardino County Daddy Tidwell only produced about 89 of the missing weapons. Some former reports indicated that as much as 800 weapons were missing from the evidence room at the San Bernardino County Sheriffs station.

Tidwell bemoaned the fact that he served the county for more than 40 years under exemplar conditions and felt he should not be prosecuted for the ‘missing’ weapons. After promising to return the weapons the paltry amount that actually were returned is appalling. Tidwell said he gave the guns away to other officers - to his sons - added to his collection.

Daddy Tidwell said that his safety would be at risk if prosecutors pursed felony gun charges against him. “I’ve put a lot of people away,” Tidwell, then 74 said.

Tidwell served as sheriff from 1983 to 1991.

To this day more than 500 of the weapons are missing. Floyd Tidwell never did a day of jail time
even though he was unable or unwilling to produce the hundred’s of missing weapons.

Ultimately Daddy Tidwell agreed to a $10,000 fine, and prosecutors agreed to reduce the felony charges to misdemeanors if Daddy Tidwell cooperated with law enforcement in searching for the missing guns.

Daddy Tidwell cried, “I’m not guilty of anything, dang it - I’ve turned in every gun I had.” After being questioned about the whereabouts of the hundreds of missing weapons. He went on to say, “The others have either been destroyed or distributed, and I gave a list of those to the Sheriff’s Department, and they said they’d contact those people. What else can I do?”

Alleging that Daddy Tidwell stole the guns while he was in office, prosecutors said he was beefing up his private collections and handing out others as gifts to his friends and volunteer reserve deputies.

Daddy Tidwell wanted to remain well-armed, according to his attorney, David Call. Call stated that, “Tidwell knows you can’t keep firearms if you’re convicted of a felony. He wants to be able to protect himself and his family.”

Daddy Tidwell frightened of spending time in jail stated, “ How would you like to be Colonel Sanders and be put in the chicken coop?”

San Bernardino County Sheriff, Gary Penrod sent inner office memos asking any officers who may have received any of the weapons to return them - no questions asked...That didn’t work well - or the officers didn’t have the weapons as Tidwell indicated.

And the beat goes on...now almost four years later...and after much prodding the San Bernardino County District Attorneys Office has called the rest of the Tidwell clan into court to be held accountable for their alleged numerous illegal activities...

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