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Bail Bond Firm Saves $200,000 by Capturing Fugitive

Monday, June 6, 2011

See the article below that was published by wcfCourier.com. A bail bond company was able to avoid having to fork over $200,000 by hiring a fugitive recovery agent to detain the defendant.

Exactly $200,000 was at stake in the manhunt that led to a Des Moines apartment complex May 18.

It was money a bonding company put up to make sure Aundrey Frequal Roberts showed up for his May 10 robbery and burglary trial. But the trial date came and went without Roberts arriving at the Black Hawk County Courthouse.Book-Out Bail Bonds of Montezuma was down to only two days before a court hearing to determine the fate of the $200,000. If Roberts was in custody by the May 20 hearing's start, the company could get the money back. If he was still on the loose, the state would keep the money.

Waterloo police and Black Hawk County sheriff's deputies were searching for Roberts. So was a self-employed bail enforcement agent hired by Book-Out. The hunt for Roberts, which unfolded over two weeks and drew law officers from two cities, illustrates the forces that come into play when a defendant disappears while out on bail and a pile of cash is at stake.

When a person is arrested for a crime, defendants can put up cash to get out of jail while awaiting trial. Misdemeanors run $200 to $2,000. Felonies are normally $5,000 to $100,000. The money is returned at the end of the case if the defendant appears for court dates. A judge can raise or lower the amount of bail after considering issues of flight risk and community safety. If a defendant and his family can't come up with the whole amount, they can go to a bonding company. The company will post bail, usually for a 10 percent nonreturnable fee. A defendant can pay $1,000 for a $10,000. That is the company's profit.

If the defendant flees, the bonding company stands to lose the $10,000. To recoup the loss, it can go back against the indemnitors --- usually family members who signed off on the deal and who may have put up property as collateral.

It can also hire a bail enforcement agent --- sometimes called a bounty hunter --- to track down the defendant before the bond forfeiture hearing. A bail enforcement agent's fee is normally 10 percent of the original bond. The hunt for Roberts started before he even disappeared.

With bond set at $200,000, he was supposed make payments on his $20,000 fee, according to Dana Coleman, Book-Out's owner. She said the person who wrote the bond is no longer working for the company.

She said Roberts wasn't paying, so the company sought to revoke his bail and cancel the deal. That would have returned Roberts to jail and taken Book-Out's $200,000 out of jeopardy. Roberts showed up for a May 6 pretrial conference at the courthouse. But for reasons that remain unclear he wasn't detained.

His trial was supposed to start four days later, but Roberts didn't show up, according to court records. The state had paid $2,090 to assemble prospective jurors, who were sent home. The court set a May 20 hearing for the bond company to give its side of the story. When looking for a wanted person, police put out their usual feelers. "We run down any known associates he has, we check with relatives. We check to see if he's with them," said Lt. Michael McNamee of the Waterloo Police Department.

Officers get the word out they are looking for the defendant. The idea is to get the defendant to turn himself in, which carries less risk. Investigators also enter the person's name in the National Crime Information Center, an FBI-administered database that lists everything from criminals to stolen cars.

"That goes nationwide," McNamee said.

Police got word Roberts was going to surrender, but he never appeared.

Meanwhile, Book-Out hired a bail enforcement agent to pick up Roberts' trail. The agent, who talked with The Courier on the condition he not be identified for safety reasons, confirmed he took the job for a discounted $5,000 fee. He dresses casual, jeans and a polo shirt. Handcuffs are hidden, and a badge hangs on a chain under his shirt. "You don't dress up like Dog the Bounty Hunter. You need to look like anybody else --- blend in," said the agent. He doesn't like the term "bounty hunter" because it sounds unprofessional.

By May 14, the bonding company got a tip Roberts was at a home in the 600 block of Gable Street in Waterloo. They passed the information to the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff's deputies took the tip to a judge to get a search warrant and assembled a 14-man team. In a 2 1/2-hour operation, deputies staked out the house and entered. They found it empty, according to Capt. Rick Abben with the sheriff's office.

Abben said the SWAT team was used because of the nature of the charges Roberts is facing. The search warrant request claims an informant had seen Roberts with a firearm. No guns were found in the house.

The bail enforcement agent later received information Roberts was in Des Moines. He was able to trace him to a certain area and began showing Roberts' picture around.
People at a store in the neighborhood said they had seen him and knew a woman he was staying with at a nearby apartment building, the agent said. He called Des Moines police, who sent three officers.

Two went in the building with the agent, and a third, a female sergeant, stayed outside at the back, the agent said. They knocked on the door of the third-floor apartment. No one answered, but the agent said he could hear noise inside. The agent said Roberts headed for a back balcony while they tried to enter.

"He tried to go over the balcony. ... He had his leg hanging over the railing, and he saw her (the sergeant)," the agent said. Roberts headed back inside.

A woman opened the door for the agent and the other two officers, who had threatened to kick it in.

"There were two females, two males and two children inside," the agent said. He said Roberts was in the process of kicking a screen from a window when the officers, guns drawn, yelled for him to get on the floor. Roberts surrendered, the agent said.

Police took Roberts into custody. He was returned to Waterloo where bond was set at $1.25 million. After the May 20 forfeiture hearing, prosecutors submitted a bill seeking to have $3,808 in expenses --- associated with the manhunt and the canceled trial --- paid for out of the $200,000 pot.

In addition to the $2,090 bill for the jurors, there was $1,443 for wages and overtime for the sheriff's tactical team in the Gable Street raid and another $274 for the Des Moines Police Department's time and cost to bring him to Black Hawk County.
Coleman said Book-Out --- which lost the $3,800 in expenses plus the $5,000 cost of the bail enforcement agent --- will try to recover its losses.

"We will proceed to take action against the indemnitors and the cosigners of the bond," Coleman said. "The bounty hunter was there and did officially detain him. ... Aundrey is custody. We take pride in our business, and they will not run from us."

Original Article
wcfCourier.com
Manhunt: Nabbing fugitive saved bail bond firm $200,000