Insurance Commissioner Jones Announces Arrests of Bail Bond Agents for Kidnapping, Extortion and Insurance Fraud
News: 2011 Press Release
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced today that bail agent Aleo J. (A.J.) Pontillo, 40, of Modesto, owner of AJ's Bail Bonds, and bail agent and office manager Janelle M. Llorens, 27, of Modesto, were arrested yesterday for kidnapping clients for the purpose of extortion and insurance fraud.
Bail for Pontillo and Llorens is set at $2,000,000 and $1,000,000, respectively. In addition, a hold has been placed on the defendants which requires each one to demonstrate to a judge that no portion of the bail consideration, pledge, security, deposit, or indemnification paid, given, made or promised was feloniously obtained.
"The arrests of these unscrupulous licensed bail agents should send a very clear message," said Commissioner Dave Jones. "The severity of their alleged crimes will simply not be tolerated."
According to investigators, from 2006 through 2010, the investigation revealed that Pontillo, Llorens and Davis were in conspiracy to defraud the County of Stanislaus of monies rightfully owed, or soon to be owed, under the bail forfeiture process and committed perjury to further the scheme. Investigators also determined that they committed insurance fraud by submitting bonds to the County of Stanislaus to falsely represent a fugitive of the court had been apprehended; and that Pontillo and Llorens conspired to kidnap no less than six of AJ Bail Bond client's, all of whom were former arrestees bonded out of jail by the business, for the sole purpose of extorting a bail bond premium debt.
These AJ Bail Bond clients were apprehended and transported to AJ's Bail Bonds, held and threatened with return to jail if they could not generate or obtain a premium payment from family or friends. If money was obtained, some of the arrestees were released from the office - others who could not produce a premium payment, were surrendered back to jail without cause. An estimated $500,000 has been recovered in bond forfeitures by Stanislaus County since 2009.
"This criminal conspiracy abused those who had already paid a premium bond for their release from jail," said Commissioner Jones. "To have them snatched from the street and extorted for additional funds or face the threat of return to jail is abhorrent."
Pontillo and Llorens are charged with Penal Code Sections 182 and 209, Conspiracy to Commit Kidnapping for the Purpose of Extortion, and Penal Code Section 550 (b) (1), Insurance Fraud. Also taken into custody yesterday was bail agent Mark D. Davis, 49, of Modesto, whose bail is set at $500,000. Davis has been charged along with Pontillo and Llorens. with Penal Code Sections 182 and 487, Conspiracy to Commit Grand Theft, and for violating California Insurance Code Section 1814/Pursuant to CA Code of Regulations Section 2091, Willfully Making an Untrue Representation to a Court to Avoid Bail Bond Forfeiture. Llorens and Davis have also been charged with violating Penal Code Section 118, Perjury.
The investigation leading to today's arrests was a joint cooperative effort between CDI's Investigations Division - COPS Unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Modesto Office, and, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. The Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.
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.