By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
"Yeah?" he says laconically. "What do you want, man?"
Josh points to the cops behind him: "We’re looking for a fugitive here," he explains, stating Joanne’s full name. Before Tweaky Joe can answer, Josh adds, "Harboring a fugitive is a felony, sir. We’d like to take a look around, if you don’t mind." (After 11 years of doing this, Josh chooses words carefully to skate around his lack of a search warrant, and the fact that he’s not a cop.)
"Uh, man, you can look, but there ain’t no one like that here, man," says the tweaker, rubbing his nose and desperately trying to keep cool.
Josh knows she’s here. The police and crew descend, opening every door until they hear a "Go away!" from the bathroom. When they bust in, there she is — hunched atop the toilet seat, eyes popping out of her skull, arms flailing wildly. Joanne puts up surprisingly little resistance and is led away into Josh’s van. By the standards of the trade, this was an easy one. It’s time for brandies and cigars all around.
"We’re crazy motherfuckers, no doubt about it," says Josh, speaking in his San Fernando Valley office. "But the only way to do this job successfully is to follow a simple mantra: The pace of the chase is better than the thrill of the kill."
And successful he is — his fee is usually 10 percent of the bail bond plus expenses. In Joanne’s case, one day’s work and $2,000 cash from Joanne’s stepfather. His yearly take is well into six figures, more than enough to enhance his investment portfolio and care obsessively for his collection of Harleys.
"That Old West/dumb-cowboy gunslinger thing is a load of crap in a lot of ways," he says. "If you haven’t got any brains, all of the swagger in the world won’t help you. And the way we’re portrayed in the press, as killers and crazies, comes from guys who weren’t even real bounty hunters in the first place." Joshua is referring to the notorious Michael Sanders, a Phoenix-based informer and convicted felon who claimed to be bounty hunting when he burst into an Arizona home and gunned down two people in 1997.
Last night’s San Berdoo stakeout has left this native of Israel beat and bleary-eyed. "I came over here to go to college and maybe open a business, but after getting my private investigator’s license, I moved into bounty hunting. In the blood, I suppose." His father, you see, was an agent in Mossad, which is Israel’s CIA, only more so.
Josh has reeled in white-collar criminals from as far away as Israel (where family connections help) and once even dragged a CEO right out of a board meeting. "It was Indianapolis or Minneapolis, I don’t remember exactly," he says. "They’re sitting in a circle in the boardroom having a nice morning meeting, when I came in, announced myself and hauled this guy away." It was a failure to appear in court on a fraud case. "This three-piece guy is sputtering with rage, you know, ‘I’ll sue!’ and ‘You can’t do this!’ I get him out the door and he’s suddenly stone silent. He knew he was in the wrong — he just had to make a show of it."
Relaxing in his seat, Josh lights up a stogy, blows a ring and grins. At any given time, there are 122,000 fugitives all over the world, he says. And with the Star Wars–style technology coming in the next five years or so (which will make his vehicle trackers and bugs obsolete), there’ll be no escaping the bounty hunters: "Not this one, anyway!"
Still, Joshua cannot legally ply his trade in Illinois, Florida, parts of Texas, and Oregon, which he calls "fugitive heaven." "Oregon is the worst, especially the eastern part of the state," he says. "Mountains, militias, and the cops aren’t motivated to help you at all. I hate that place."
Even with the law on his side elsewhere, he’s been busted twice by local cops he hadn’t tipped off, once on a weapons violation that he quickly cleared. Josh is always armed: "It’s gotten insane out there. I’ve been shot at a bunch of times." The worst incident involved a fugitive driving a stolen car. "Wanted for trafficking, ADW, parole violator, GTA, a total loser. He starts shooting at us, a quarter of a mile into the chase. We returned fire and wounded him. I hated to do it. It’s basically a police matter when it escalates to that.
"Drug houses are the pits, the worst," he adds. "Went into this house in North Hollywood once, the floor covered in maggots, like a carpet." Children were there too, in such bad shape that "the local narcs were practically in tears."
Yep, notes Josh, say what you want about him, but he’s better than the people he collars. "Bail jumpers are immoral family wreckers."
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