31 South Bay bail agents arrested for illegal business practices

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- More than two dozen South Bay bail agents have been arrested since last Thursday for allegedly illegally trying to steal business from competitors, according to the California Department of Insurance.

According to Department of Insurance officials, 31 bail agents from seven companies operating in Santa Clara County have been arrested or are arranging to surrender in what the department called its largest bail agent-related enforcement action ever conducted.

The agents are accused of illegal schemes to steal business from competitors by rewarding jail inmates with money added to their jail accounts for providing information about newly booked individuals in the jails, insurance officials said.

According to insurance officials, some of the companies include well-known names such as Aladdin Bail Bonds, Luna Bail Bonds and Bail Hotline.

The Department of Insurance, working with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, immediately suspended the licenses of all 31 of the bail agents. The agents in custody are no longer allowed to serve as bail agents or transact bail business, according to insurance officials.

In addition, the investigations uncovered evidence of the illegal use of unlicensed individuals to transact bail and one agency employing a convicted felon as a bounty hunter, insurance officials said.

The investigation was launched following a significant increase in complaints from other bail agents and consumers regarding the alleged illegal activity, Department of Insurance spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid said.

"One reason could be that competition has increased dramatically, and with the passage of Proposition 47 there is less overall business," Kincaid said.

Proposition 47, passed in 2014, reduced many drug-related and nonviolent crimes from felony to misdemeanor charges.

The Department of Insurance and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office have been working since 2013 on the investigation, which so far has involved 15 search warrants, 100,000 digital recordings and 50 witness and bail agent interviews.

Most of the agents in custody are awaiting arraignment for felony charges related to illegal business practices.

"And now bail will posted for them," Kincaid said.