Thirty-one bail bonds agents have been arrested by law enforcement officers working with the California Department of Insurance and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. The agents, spread among five San Francisco Bay Area counties, were charged with illegal business practices that constituted felonies.
Seven companies were targeted by “Operation Bail Out,” including Aladdin, Luna Bail Bonds Bail Bonds, and Bail Hotline. 27 of the agents were located in Santa Clara, Alameda, and Merced counties, while three came from Monterey and San Benito counties.
California Department of Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who sponsored AB 1406, which would “provide the Department of Insurance and district attorneys with resources needed to hold California’s more than 3,000 licensed bail agents accountable and deter illegal activity,” said on the department’s website: “Bail agents play an important role in our criminal justice system, which should be free from corruption. Complaints against bail agents for unfair business practices and alleged illegal activity have been increasing steadily. These arrests and license suspensions should serve as a warning to any bail agent skirting the law that it won’t be tolerated.”
Some of the bail agents named included: Jose Alvarez, Angelica Arellano, Fernando Casillas, Dino Garcia, Juan Guerrero Pablo Guerrero, Manuel Gutierrez, , Maria Mandujano, Monica Martinez, Veronica Melero, Eduardo Nunez, Christopher Ramirez, Luis Ramirez, Arish Rivers, Eduardo Sandoval, and Maria Silva, according to KSBW.
The bail agents’ licenses were immediately suspended as a result of the multi-year investigation. The investigation found that the bail agents, who are normally charged with providing the funds for bail so defendants can be released to prepare a strong defense, often gave jail inmates money if the inmates revealed information about newly booked individuals in the jails. The investigation also found evidence of the illegal use of unlicensed individuals to transact bail, and even one agency using a convicted felon as a bounty hunter.
According to Professional Bail Agents of the United States, roughly 14,000 bail agents currently work in the United States, with earnings ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to ten thousand dollars a year. The average bail agent was estimated to make between $25,000 and $50,000 a year.
Four states do not have commercial bail: Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin. In general, bail agents must be appointed by an insurance company to write bail bonds.