How do you find a good bail bond agent? Says the Los Angeles Times: “How you answer that question can spell the difference between getting a relative safely out of jail or, in some cases, ending up in temporary trouble yourself.” A family-owned bail bond company based in Whittier, Ca., is under investigation for alleged kidnapping, embezzlement, and criminal conspiracy. Authorities say the owner of American Liberty Bail Bonds and members of his family, several of whom were recently arrested, are suspected of running the agency as a street-level army by kidnapping clients and giving discounts to inmates in exchange for criminal favors. Law enforcement officials statewide are probing the bail industry as a whole for alleged corruption and wrongdoing. “It’s an industry that has its share of bad actors,” California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi says of the state’s more than 2,200 licensed bail-bond agents.
State law prohibits solicitations at jails. Hiring someone over the phone without further investigation is chancy. Glenda Stroobant, owner of a Fullerton bail agency, urges consumers to take precautions before signing on any dotted lines. Begin by noting the number of the agent’s license. You can then check with the California Department of Insurance at (800) 927-HELP or at http://www.insurance.ca.gov to find out if the license is valid and whether the company has been the subject of disciplinary action. Ask for the terms upfront, Stroobant advises. The majority of agents require a nonrefundable payment of 10% of the bail before they will post a bond.