Some say bail isn't high enough

A woman was released after paying $160,500, but her alleged victims don't feel safe.

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
Published January 17, 2008

DADE CITY - Tonya Michelle Adams is facing 21 felony charges. She is accused of crimes such as grand theft, burglary and identity theft. The judge said he won't accept anything less than 20 years in prison.

She got out of jail in October after an acquaintance put up her $160,500 bail.

But her alleged victims - who never miss her court appearances - say her bail should be higher.

They came to court on Wednesday to say they're still vulnerable because of the personal information - names, addresses, Social Security numbers - that Adams is accused of stealing.

A victim said he had another fraudulent check cashed in December - two months after Adams got out of jail. They asked Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa to raise her bail - or put her back in jail without any.

"It seemed very coincidental that one of the original victims was now victimized again in such a short time frame after the initial bail," said Paul Boetcher of Blanton. "I talked to the other victims and now we're really concerned about what's going to transpire if she continues to be on bail."

James Smithberger of Dade City said someone claiming to be his wife cashed a $300 check on Dec. 20. No one has been arrested in the latest case.

Siracusa told the victims that Adams' bail was already high enough.

"These types of situations are going to continue," Smithberger told the court, "because we just don't know how much information was stolen."

Detectives say Adams stole mail from boxes in Dade City and Zephyrhills in 2006 and wrote down and used the personal identification numbers - Social Security, telephone, credit cards - that she found.

Adams, 30, was arrested last year on multiple charges of burglary, grand theft, forgery, criminal use of personal identification and dealing in stolen property.

Her victims are so determined that attorney J. Christopher Carver believed they helped scuttle a plea deal for his client Donnie Lee Wheeler later that day.

Wheeler was arrested in a burglary connected to Adams. But the judge allowed one of Adams' victims from another case to speak out against a proposed deal that would have given Wheeler 21 months in prison.

Carver objected to letting someone unconnected with the case speak. Siracusa called off the plea deal but said it wasn't because the victim spoke.

The judge said he just thought that Wheeler, 40, deserved more time than that.

As for Adams, her private attorney asked to be taken off the case because the friend who paid her bail is no longer paying him. Adams asked for a court-appointed lawyer. Adams said she is unemployed and cannot afford to hire her own attorney.

"How are you able to bond out if you have no money, no source of income, no property?" the judge asked.

"A friend of the family put it up," Adams said. But they're no longer friends, she said.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or 727 869-6236.