Update: South Bay bail agents targeted in law enforcement sweep
News: 2015 Press Release
In total 31 bail agents in the South Bay were arrested, charged and booked. Twenty-six agents have had their licenses suspended. Four of the suspects were unlicensed agents performing bail agent duties. One suspect was charged with a misdemeanor for violating the Bail Fugitive Recovery Persons Act. Eight licensees have requested hearings to appeal their suspensions. The first hearing is set for September 16 in Oakland. The remaining 7 licensees' hearings are likely to occur the week of September 21. All suspects have bailed out of jail. Arraignments will occur by the end of month. The investigation is ongoing and additional arrests are possible.
The department will notify media as updates occur.
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Bail agents across five Bay Area counties were arrested by law enforcement personnel from the California Department of Insurance and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office and are being charged with numerous felonies for illegal business practices. This is the largest enforcement action ever conducted by the department involving bail agents.
The arrest sweep, which focused on seven companies, including Aladdin and Luna Bail Bonds and Bail Hotline, began last Thursday and targeted bail agents in Santa Clara, Alameda, Monterey, San Benito and Merced counties. As of Monday, afternoon 30 are in custody and with one arranging to surrender. The Santa Clara District Attorney is prosecuting the cases.
"Bail agents play an important role in our criminal justice system, which should be free from corruption," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, whose department licenses bail agents in California. "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."
The department immediately suspended the licenses of all 31 bail agents identified in the enforcement action. They are no longer allowed to serve as bail agents or transact bail business. The enforcement action is the result of a multi-year investigation that uncovered schemes by bail agents to scoop business away from competitors by rewarding jail inmates with money added to their jail accounts for providing information about newly booked individuals in the jails. The investigation, which included 15 search warrants, approximately 100,000 digital recordings and 50 witness and bail agent interviews, also revealed evidence of the illegal use of unlicensed individuals to transact bail and a bail agency employing a convicted felon as a bounty hunter - a violation of the Bail Fugitive Recovery Act.
"We are committed to hold accountable those who illegally undermine a system that is set up to ensure a defendant's presence in the courtroom and protect the public," said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
In 2013, the department sent a letter to all licensed bail agents noting complaints the department was receiving throughout the state and reminding bail agents of their obligation to follow all laws and regulations. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen also sent a letter warning all South Bay bail agents within his county to follow the letter of law.
As complaints about alleged illegal business practices by bail agents have increased, the Department of Insurance requires additional resources to investigate. Commissioner Jones sponsored AB 1406 Assembly member Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park), to 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. Commissioner Jones hopes that the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which held AB 1406 this year, will allow a successor bill to move forward next year to provide the Department and district attorneys with the resources they need to police bail agents illegal activity.
- Letter to bail agents from CA Department of Insurance
- Letter to South Bay bail agents from Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen
- Grand jury report on Bail agent issues
- Link to booking and arrest operation photos
- Link to graphic of scheme
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 www.insurance.ca.gov 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.