Most celebrities have stylists, personal chefs, trainers and drivers, but only a select few have had to employ Ira Judelson.
“I do a job that requires people to come to me, and they’re scared, and they’re shaken up and they can barely think,” Judelson said. “These are the most powerful people sometimes.”
Judelson is a bail bondsman to the stars, a man with a host of celebrity clients.
“I become a counselor” he said. “I become a priest or a rabbi. If they want to confess something, then I come in and fix their problem.”
Rapper Ja Rule, former Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, comedian Katt Williams and the infamous Dominique Strauss-Kahn are just a few of Judelson’s high-profile clients. When they were arrested, they all called him to get them out of jail.
“Celebrities are very important,” he said. “It’s more important for them to understand and know that if, God forbid, their world gets shaken up, I’m there for them at any time, day or night.”
Bail bondsmen like Judelson make money by charging a fee to cover the bail set by a judge after an arrest. But if someone skips town, Judelson is on the hook for the entire bail amount. So, as he puts it, his job falls somewhere in between an insurance agent, legal loan shark and a bank.
“In the nicest term, I am a bank,” he said. “I lend money to people to get them out of jail as quick as possible, and I take collateral to support whatever I do to ensure the court that they’re coming back.”
The walls of his New York City office are plastered with newspapers carrying the biggest headlines from his clients’ cases, from helping Ja Rule (born Jeffrey Atkins), after he and Lil’ Wayne were busted on a drug charge in 2007, to helping Lindsay Lohan get into a rehab facility.
Judelson has been in this line of work for almost two decades, and for people who might question his career choice, Judelson says, "it's just the job I do."
"I got to assume that people sometimes look at me thinking, 'Why you doing this, why taking somebody out that’s in trouble?' My answer is everybody’s innocent until proven guilty, and let’s just let the judicious system take its course."
And the job hasn’t been without its risks. Judelson has bulletproof windows. His phone rings constantly, and each time he has to figure how to get the money to court, and fast.
In his new book, “The Fixer: The Notorious Life of a Front Page Bail Bondsman,” Judelson details all his famous bonds. With a $5 million bail, Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn , the former head of the International Monetary Fund, was Judelson’s biggest payday. Strauss-Kahn was accused of raping a New York City hotel maid and charged with attempted rape, criminal sexual assault and unlawful imprisonment. The charges were later dismissed.
But high-profile clients aren’t without their headaches. Years ago, rapper DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, failed to show up in court after Judelson posted his bail.
“DMX, Earl had a little bit of a misunderstanding when his court date was. That’s the best way I could say it,” he said. “But we ended up working it out with Earl.” Despite a few minor issues along the way, Judelson said he has built lasting relationships with some of his celebrity clients, including rapper Joe Cartagena, better known by his stage name “Fat Joe.”
“My clients become part of my life,” he said. “They really become a tentacle of my world. And I get very close to them, and I respect them, and they respect me, and we keep relationships, even after their cases are over.”
Although Judelson didn’t post bail for him, he did provide some counseling about “a tax situation.”
“He was there with all the wisdom and all the knowledge as a friend,” Fat Joe said. “He wrote a letter to the judge, a reference letter. He wrote a beautiful letter for me.”
Fat Joe now is returning the favor by supporting Judelson's new app, Jammed Up, which is aimed at helping users find and review profiles of lawyers, investigators and bail bondsmen. Fat Joe is helping him launch his marketing campaign by acting as a spokesman and is signing on as a co-founder.
The bail bond business has afforded Judelson a very comfortable and different lifestyle: He lives in a mansion just outside New York City with his wife and three children, where he has been known to attend some fabulous star-studded parties. But even at home, he’s on call.
“I’m there 24/7. I’ll jump out of bed you know no matter how my hair looks and just go down to any courthouse, any jail, any court any time,” he said. “I love what I do. I provide a service to get people out of jail and give them a chance to get home to their families and fight their case from the outside.”
ABC's Dan Abrams contributed to this report