Leah Hulan is a former Miss Tennessee whose bail bonding business has made quite the splash across the Midstate.
Her company's motto: "You ring, we spring."
But now "NewsChannel 5 Investigates" has uncovered serious questions about one defendant that the so-called Bond Girl sprang from jail.
Our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams and his team have uncovered new information.
At the heart of the investigation: is the defendant dead or alive?
For Leah Hulan, it's a $100,000 question.
Hulan's sultry cable TV ads take aim at a very specific audience.
"I kinda gear my advertising toward that target audience -- males commit more crimes than females," she tells Phil Williams.
Still, despite her off-beat commercials, Hulan insists bail bonding is serious business.
"We bring people to court and without us it would be difficult for court to happen everyday like it should," she explains.
"And if we don't bring them to court, we pay off -- so somebody gets a lot of money."
But ask how she got out of paying off one big bond, and you'll see another side of the Grumpy's Bond Girl.
"That case is over," Hulan tells Williams. "I'm not answering anymore questions on that case."
That case involved a Mexican man. Salvio Diaz was busted in 2003 for possession of crystal meth.
Hulan posted a $100,000 bond.
Diaz ran, leaving her and her business partner/husband Kevin Davis with a big problem.
"We had a hundred grand on the line," Davis says.
"A hundred thousand dollars at that point, and at any point in our lives, would have affected us being able to do business."
They say they searched high and low.
"We were on his heels everywhere," Hulan insists. "But we were about three months behind."
Then, just as they were about to have to pay up, they hired a Texas man who held himself out as a private investigator.
He came up with this death certificate, claiming that Diaz was dead -- the victim of a homicide.
Hulan gave it to Williamson County prosecutors, who never questioned it.
"Our court system said it was valid -- so case closed," she adds.
But now, in letters obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, Mexican authorities raise serious questions about the death certificate, about whether Salvio Diaz is really dead, and about whether the Grumpy's bond girl owes taxpayers $100,000.
Talking to Mexican authorities, NewsChannel 5 producer Alex Quinnones discovered all sort of red flags.
"The health department said that the document was false, the death certificate was false," Quinnones says.
"The police department said there was absolutely no homicide of that person that day or any variation of that. Basically this had never happened."
Phil Williams tells Hulan and Davis, "We have letters from both of them saying the death certificate is fake."
"Then can we stop right now then?" Davis answers, "because this is news to me."
But it wasn't news to Davidson County DA Torry Johnson.
"It looked similar and consistent to the ones we had seen before that also turned out to be bogus," Johnson tells Williams.
Last year, Hulan went before judges seeking permission to open a Nashville office, and prosecutors raised questions about the death certificate.
"It was going to be a few thousand dollars probably to investigate this," the DA says.
But Hulan dropped her application, instead of paying for a DA's investigator to go to Mexico to settle the questions once and for all.
Johnson says he was surprised.
"Given the fact that this is a large jurisdiction I would think that they from a business standpoint, it still would have been a good investment for them if they had nothing to fear or hide."
Hulan and Davis wouldn't explain why they didn't go along with the DA's plan.
"Either you are complicit in coming up with the fake death certificate," Williams says.
"That is not one of the choices," Davis answers.
"Or, like I said, I got buffaloed. And that is a strong possibility here."
Hulan insists they did all they could to find Diaz -- even though they didn't check out the death certificate and they now can't find the man who produced it.
"I did have to spend $18,000 in the investigation and that was not what I was paying for, was a death certificate," Davis says.
"Eighteen thousand is a lot less than a hundred thousand," Williams answers.
"Yes, it is."
But if they can't prove that Diaz is really dead, Johnson says: "They, the bonding company, ought to go ahead and pay the bond like they were originally obligated to."
They say they'll do whatever their courts want.
"Do we need to pay the hundred thousand dollars?" Davis says.
Hulan interjects, "Can we get more time?"
"Do we need to provide Salvio?" her husband continues.
But they insist their company's image should be shaped by all the people they've helped, instead of the one that got away.
NewsChannel 5 finally reached the investigator who came up with the death certificate.
He first told us that he, too, was suspicious.
He later called back to tell us that he had been asked by Leah Hulan's husband not to answer any more of our questions.
The DA's office in Williamson County has opened its own investigation to try to settle the question about whether the death certificate is real or fake.
Monday, May 20 2013 7:42 AM EDT2013-05-20 11:42:42 GMT
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