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Commissioner Jones Announces Arrest Of Bail Agent For Grand Theft

News: 2011 Press Release

For Release: February 9, 2011
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
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Commissioner Jones Announces Arrest Of Bail Agent For Grand Theft
Bail agent used funds for personal gain

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today announced the arrest of Van Nuys resident Stephanie Diane Johnson, 55, on a warrant for one felony count of grand theft. If convicted on the charge, Johnson faces a maximum of three years in state prison.

"A Bail Bond Agent who steals from clients in order to use these funds personally is committing a breach of fiduciary duty," said Commissioner Dave Jones. "Individuals who perpetrate such acts will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." 

From February 2009 through April 2009, Johnson executed 13 American Surety Company bail bonds with a total face value of $390,000, within the County of Los Angeles, California. Johnson collected no less than $34,000 in gross premiums from 12 of the 13 defendants that she bailed out of custody, yet failed to remit $5,070 in net premiums due to American. Instead, Johnson diverted these funds for her own personal use. 

The investigation also revealed that Johnson failed to return or account for 11 bail bonds with a total face value of $250,000 and worth $3,250 in premium to American. The bonds have not been located or accounted for by the suspect. Based on past experience, bail bonds that have not been returned by bail agents could have been executed to release suspects from jail and issued to courts without reporting to the surety company, exposing the surety company to losses equal to the bond value, as well a loss of premium. 

The Investigation Division, Criminal Operations - Point of Sale [C.O.P.S.] Unit first learned of the scheme in May 2010 and initiated an immediate investigation. In June 2010, Johnson met with investigators and surrendered her bail license when confronted with the evidence. The case is being prosecuted by the Public Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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