Jan. 16, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
UNARMED AND LAUGHABLE: DOG DAY
Reporter trails fugitives as a bounty hunter
BY COREY LEVITAN
photos to enlarge...|
as usual, approaches his mission underprepared but not
underdressed. Photos by Ronda
Duane "Dog" Chapman, Levitan's model for this adventure, stars
in A&E's "Dog the Bounty Hunter."
Las Vegas bounty
hunter Joe Intiso, right, struggles to restrain his laughter
as he preps Levitan on the day's first fugitive.
Things get more
serious as Intiso, right, allows Levitan to handcuff a suspect
found in Henderson. Intiso's partner, Jason Pollock, left,
Corey Levitan, left, dressed as Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter
Chapman, and his real-life mentor, Joe Intiso of Gator Bail
Enforcement, watch the rear entrance of a locksmith store,
hoping to capture a fugitive who skipped bail.
At a traffic
light, Intiso, left, shows Levitan how to handcuff a suspect.
When pulling his truck over to interview potential informants,
Intiso had the reporter duck down so as not to reveal their
"Freeze!" I scream at the punk sprinting away from us.
I'm not sure which is racing faster, my feet or my heart. The
only bounty hunting I've done is in the paper towel aisle at
Albertsons. Yet tonight, two bail-enforcement agents and I are
giving chase to a potentially dangerous criminal through the darkest
crannies of Las Vegas' underbelly.
What happens next, I have no idea. Maybe the fugitive will
escape. Maybe he'll give up. Maybe he'll shoot.
To be a bounty hunter in Nevada, you have to take an 80-hour
course on investigating, firearms and handcuffing. Then you have to pass a background check, written test and psychological
Or you have to be an insane reporter. Joe Intiso told me I had
"no idea" the trouble I was asking for when I wanted to sign on for
"Being a bounty hunter is 10 times more dangerous than being a
police officer," the 43-year-old former Army Airborne Ranger told me
on the phone. "When law enforcement goes to take somebody down,
they've got 20 guys, helicopters and dogs. We've got three
The United States has about 400 bounty hunters, 38 in Nevada.
Citizens' arrests are all they can make.
"And because you're not a police officer, people are more apt to
resist," Intiso says.
Intiso is asking for his own trouble. I report for duty looking
like Duane "Dog" Chapman, star of A&E's "Dog the Bounty Hunter"
For one mullet haircut to stand out as more ridiculous than
another is an achievement, and Dog has no shame walking around
beneath the world title-holder. Serge's Showgirl Wigs mangled a
beautiful women's hairpiece into a fitting tribute. Vegas Costume
Works owner Tracy Bohl went equally overboard, using me as a living
mannequin for every stitch of unused "We Will Rock You" costuming.
(Bohl said she purchased clothes for the late Queen musical in all
sizes. Apparently, none of the actors were XXS.)
Intiso easily could have been offended. Instead, laughter
"That's cool, man," he says. (He speaks not entirely unlike Tommy
Chong in "Up in Smoke.")
Intiso hands me my bulletproof vest as we hop into his Ford F-150
truck, where fugitives whimper in the back seat after they're
caught. (An average day sees two or three.)
"Grown men crying, big guys," Intiso says.
I ask if I can pack a gun. More laughter ensues.
Fine, I don't need one of his weapons anyway. I'm wielding
a secret one. In case criminals attack, I will, I will, rock
Our first suspect is a six-time bail-skipper whose bond is
$2,115. (Bounty hunters typically live off 10 percent of the bonds
of captured fugitives.) His original charges were
"It's the little ones that are the biggest problems," Intiso
says. "They're the ones who really don't want to go to jail."
Intiso makes a U-turn over a Sahara Avenue traffic island.
Intiso's two partners in crime-fighting -- Russell Stoll, 31, and
Jason Pollock, 28 -- do the same in the truck behind us.
We're rushing after our suspect before he leaves work for
"Sometimes you have to do things in our work that don't, um,
comply with the rules," Intiso says.
We pull up to the locksmith where the bond's co-signer said the
"Let's go make some people cry," Intiso says as though starring
in a '70s crime drama produced by Stephen J. Cannell. He tells me to
cover the back of the building with him. Stoll takes the front and
Pollock, as usual, enters the premises asking for the fugitive.
"He looks more like a delivery guy than a bounty hunter," Intiso
says, dropping his first of many hints that perhaps my outfit is
making this job harder.
"A lee-tle bit," Intiso says.
Not only is Dog the world's most famous bounty hunter -- he found
Max Factor heir/fugitive rapist Andrew Luster in 2003 -- he's also
the world's most noticeable person from five blocks away. Dog wants
entire towns knowing he's on the prowl. That way, more informants
The overwhelming majority of bounty hunters, including my new
partners, do not agree with this logic.
"The element of surprise is very useful," Intiso says.
Maybe this is why Dog collars about 385 fugitives a year, while
Intiso's Gator Bail Enforcement captured more than 600 in 2005.
Maybe this is why Brigitte Welles, owner of Las Vegas' Locked Up
Bail Bonds, says Intiso delivers 100 percent of her suspects, while
Dog failed the one time she hired him (to nab a $10,000 skip in
Dog's hometown of Honolulu.)
Maybe this is why Intiso motions for me to duck whenever he rolls
down the windows to speak to someone.
Our fugitive doesn't work at this locksmith anymore, Pollock
emerges to tell us.
Intiso flips open his laptop and starts tapping, accessing
LocatePLUS. Open-source Web sites are the bounty hunter's best
supplier of info besides informants (who get paid $50 if their tips
Strike two is the apparently empty Henderson apartment of our
next fugitive. Wanted for battery and domestic violence, she skipped
out on a $5,500 bond.
"Girls are the worst because they hide better," Intiso says. "And
guys never tell you about the chicks, especially if they're happy
Our next target, a catering employee fleeing DUI charges, isn't
where his bond paperwork claims, either. Strike three.
"You watch that Dog show, you see this guy apprehend two or three
guys in an hour," Intiso says. "But you don't see the five or six
days of legwork it took to find them."
He doesn't like "Dog the Bounty Hunter" much -- mostly because it
divulges trade secrets. One is the lies bounty hunters tell.
"Most of (the suspects) lie to us first!" Pollock snaps.
"They have no intention of going to court before they bail out. So
the lies start when they're in jail making a call for bail."
"You've got to catch a liar with a lie," Stoll agrees.
At the Henderson apartment of a battery suspect who skipped out
on his $3,120 bond, Intiso asks the suspect's girlfriend to assure
him he's not going to jail.
"He just needs to fill out his paperwork at the bond office,"
As she makes the call, Intiso turns and whispers to me: "If he's
a smart dude, he won't come here."
"We tell everyone the same thing," Pollock says later. "Come with
us and you'll get a new court date.
"We just leave out the part about going to jail first."
Intiso lets me handcuff the suspect when he arrives, as his
girlfriend shouts obscenities at us. It's more action than my
Tuesday afternoons usually pack, but not enough for an adventure
That order gets filled at 6 p.m., when Stoll, Pollock and I spot
a truck pulling up to the Maryland Parkway house of our next
fugitive. (Intiso is off doing paperwork.) Stoll pulls his Ford
F-150 up behind the suspect. He runs. We chase.
This is the part where I yelled "freeze" before. What I didn't
say was that I'm a quarter-block behind both the suspect and my
colleagues when I yell it. I don't know how Dog catches anyone
dressed like this. Cowboy boots have to be second to stilts as the
all-time slowest footwear.
The suspect scales an 8-foot fence, with Stoll and Pollock in hot
pursuit. I catch up, and we wrestle the suspect into submission.
And when I say we, I of course mean they.
"Put your palms together like you're praying, (expletive)!" Stoll
yells as he handcuffs our suspect. Pollock stands nearby, gun drawn.
One problem about our suspect: He's not our suspect. He's just
some dude who ran. Stoll and Pollock are sure he has secrets, but
they won't discover what they are. Bounty hunters have no right to
hold someone they're not hired to find, and no way of checking for
Before our nonsuspect is released, he makes an observation.
"Are you that guy from TV?" he asks, looking at me. I don't
respond, curious about where he's headed.
"You look taller on TV."
Fear and Loafing appears in the Living section every Monday. If
there's an adventure you can help make happen, email Corey Levitan
See his previous adventures at http://www.fearandloafing.com/.