Bail Bond Confessions Blog

4 in 3

September 11, 2010
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So what does that title mean, eh?

It means in the past three months, I have lost four very solid potential clients. These are clients who hired attorneys, had the resources to pay my fee, and were motivated to show up to court. How did I lose them? The judges.

Lately, more and more often our local judges seem to be invoking a rare used option when setting bail:  The 10% option. The story goes that the judge sets the bail and then tacks on the 10% option and explains it that if the family posts 10% of the bond amount in either cash or property, than the defendant is let free and at the end of their case, the court returns the cash or property.

So yeah, now the courts are muscling into the bond business and cutting the bondsman out. This means that there is no collateral to secure the bond nor is there a motivated party out there keeping watch on the defendant and maintaining control over the situation. Furthermore, the courts get to earn interest on the money posted and that does not get returned to the family. In many cases, if there are penalties, court costs, or any other charges, it gets deducted from the posted amount. Oh and that goes for attorney’s fees too.

It’s damn hard to compete against the government.  I’m still trying to do this for a living, but between that and the general slowness of my current business model (only deal with attorney referrals), I’m keeping my eyes open for other business opportunities.

Who knows, I may have to change the title of this blog!

-bbc

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Week in Review

December 17, 2009
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So I haven’t had any real business since the last time I posted. Yesterday, I turned down a transfer bond because it would have netted me $25 after expenses, not including 100 miles or so of round trip driving.

Today, the situation was a little different and I was happy to do a different transfer bond.  I basically made $1/mi. and it took most of my afternoon dealing with a screwed up bureaucracy, but I had the law on my side and prevailed.

I don’t want to go into too many details, but essentially this small town in the middle of nowhere wanted me to pay for a business license before they would let me bond the guy out.  It took a while and I had to cite a court case, but the city admin relented and allowed me to go ahead and post the bond.  But she “threatened” that I would have to pay a penalty if I wanted to come back and post a 2nd bond.  That penalty would include me getting a license (which I readily agreed would be required by law as I am no longer just doing a “one-off”) and paying a 5% penalty retroactive to today’s date.

As I was leaving her office, I asked her if the business licenses run annually there as in most places.  She said “Yes”.  So then I clarified…we’re talking Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, right?  She said “Yes”.

So…as long as I don’t have to post any more bonds in her town between now and the end of the year, I’ll avoid the penalty. Next year, I would contend that it resets.

-bbc


Kids, don’t make this mistake…

December 8, 2009
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The other night, as I was routinely ignoring another round of annoyance calls from an inmate at the local detention center ($3 fee/per call if I choose to answer), my finger slipped and I pressed the “7” key.

With Paytel, when you press “7”, you are telling their system that you wish to block all future calls from the jail.  For a bail bondsman, this is what we call a very bad thing.  The following morning, I e-mailed Paytel and asked if they could take the block off and if there was a way to disable this feature so I don’t fat finger it again.  Within 24 hours, they e-mailed me back and told me to contact the jail, though to their credit, they provided the name/number of the person I needed to talk to.  Of course they ignored the second part of my question about disabling the feature.

So I called the person I needed to talk to.  She was helpful, though not particularly kind.  She insisted that I fax her my request on letterhead (again?!?!  Can’t we get beyond this ancient technology?) before she would take the block off.  She couldn’t tell me how long it would take to remove the block, but she told me there is no way to disable the “7” feature.

I just got a call from the jail a couple of minutes ago.  All told, it took about 48 hours to lift the block.  I hate Paytel.

-bbc


Who do I hate more?

October 9, 2009
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On the one hand, there is PayTel.  Their onerous business practices have cost me $300 in collect phone calls and only accounted for $300 in gross income. Thats no way to run a business.  On top of that, I sent them a payment over a week ago. They cashed the check and it cleared my bank on Tuesday.

Today, I noticed I was at the limit and wasn’t receiving any calls from the jail. I tried to call customer service, but after 3 failed attempts (your call could not be completed?!?!) I resorted to the e-mail form. I explained that they have my payment, but the response was that I needed to provide them with proof. I sent them copies of the cleared check and they took it down to accounting. Someone somewhere screwed up.  Meanwhile, they really seem to be a shady company.

Then we have AT&T.  I ordered a business line with an 800 number. The first bill came in at $165. I called and raised a ruckus. I explained that I’m not even using the number to call out, I have it forwarded to my cell phone, so why is it so high?!?

They told me I could reduce the bill by canceling the line and converting it to just a forward.  It would make my bill $50/mo. I specifically asked if I would still be listed in yellow pages and was told yes. They said I would only have to pay $8/mo for the 800 number, plus the per min. charge.

I got my next bill, or should I say bills?  Came out to be around $90 and the 800 number was separate.  The 800 number accounted for nearly $30. I called and raised another ruckus. Apparently, when you go with a forwarding, the 800 number is no longer an $8 add-on. I told them to cancel it. Besides, the only calls I ever received from anyone were wrong numbers because the 800 number was exactly one digit off from a credit card company’s customer service line.

Now, I just received a solicitation from AT&T/Yellow pages. They want to sell me an ad for $50/mo to be listed in yellow and white pages. I said “Wait a minute…I’m already supposed to be there.” Again, apparently AT&T lied to me. You can not be listed in yellow pages automatically unless you have a fully dedicated line.

What bullshit.

-R


Its quiet…too quiet

September 28, 2009
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There hasn’t been much to write about lately because there hasn’t been much going on.  I learned an important lesson in making sure you only have family members as indemnitors because I have a defendant who’s girlfriend’s sister signed for her.  Now the girlfriend is pissed at the defendant and wants her sister off.

Other than that, there hasn’t been much going on.  A poor kid who stole a car and ran from the cops is trying to get out.  I’m trying to help him, but it sounds like he is playing me for phone calls and planning on bonding out with a different company.

I’ve had a few calls for various guys that violated parole.  I’m not touching them, based upon recommendation from a couple of sources.  Violation of parole seems to garner big time punishments around here.  So they are very likely to run.

Lastly, I have another young kid that is in for Armed Robbery. He has a $50k bond and has been in jail since early this year. He called out of the blue and swore that he has $$$ and a house for collateral, but he didn’t have a phone number for his mother. WTF is that about?!?

I’m scrapping the bottom of the barrel and frankly there just isn’t much there. I verified that my name/number is in several other jails, but no one is calling from them.

-bbc


Here’s a little story about a man named Zeb

September 19, 2009
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So this whole damn drama just cost me around $30-$35  in collect calls today.  At least I can write it up for posterity sake. Name’s changed to protect the guilty.

So I get a phone call this morning from a man named Zeb.  He was arrested the other day and has a $1275 bail for DUI. Except that he also happens to have a bench warrant with a $653 fine in an adjoining county.  Poor Zeb has is own business mowing lawns and he also details cars for extra money.  He needs to get out because he has some jobs lined up.  Zeb isn’t married, but he has a baby Mama (Genevieve) and they have been together a long time.  In fact, according to court records, they’ve been evicted from a few different places, but it looks like they stayed together through the tough times.  Zeb’s got himself a little girl and I guess I’m a little to empathetic because I tried to help him out more than I should have, which is why the collect calls racked up.

He gave me a number for Genevieve, but she doesn’t have an answering machine and she wasn’t at home since she went to the flea market to sell some stuff. So after trying that # a few times (and there is an issue in that my phone can only 3way call out, but I can’t selectively disconnect one of the parties and try again!), we then called Genevieve’s brother, Abe.  Abe wasn’t too keen on helping and basically told Zeb that she wasn’t around.  This went on once or twice throughout the day.  Finally, Zeb was supposed to call me before lockdown at 10pm, but he jumped the gun and started calling around 8pm.  I ignored the calls until 8:30p and tried Genevieve’s number to no avail. When I finally answered Zeb’s calls, he convinced me to try Abe’s number and lo and behold, Genvieve was there!  This is where the fun begins.

You see, Zeb tells me that Genevieve will be getting paid soon and she will pay his $653 fine in the other county and my $120 fee (yes, that is all that I would make from this ordeal, before expenses).  But when he starts talking with her (and he doesn’t know I’m listening in), she tells him that they can’t afford it or they will be evicted again. He tells her to do it anyway, that he will find them a new place to live, but she doesn’t bite.  Back in the day, Zeb and her must have discussed this scenario of him being arrested again, because she brings up this old conversation of theirs where he told her he would man up and do the time to get it over with.

I guess it is easy to say things like that when you are free, but much harder to follow through when you are locked up.  Poor Zeb started crying on the phone to her.  Begging her to let him out, but bless Genevieve, she stuck to her guns and insisted that she will use that money for rent and not let herself and their child get evicted.  And then they ran out of time and get disconnected.

A little while later, I get a call back from Zeb.  He is quite insistent that Genevieve will pay me on Monday (two days from now) and that will get him out of his current county and transferred to the other county where he will do his time.  I pressed him on this as it didn’t seem like that was how they resolved the last call.  But since he still doesn’t know I listen in, I can’t be too obvious about what I know.  He has no other way of talking to her except through me and yet he didn’t bother to give her my name or contact info.

He assured me that the plan is set and he just needs to tell her how to contact me to arrange payment.  I go ahead and put him through (I’m such a sucker!) and they talk it out a little longer, but again he doesn’t mention me, nor does he even mention the plan.  It’s the same old stuff about him wanting out, she not having the money, and them having to deal with it.  He talks to his kid for a minute and I tear up, but at least it is on mute.  The kid puts Mama back on and they say their good byes.  He asks her to put some money into the Paytel system so he can call her directly, then they run out of time.

At this point, Zeb thinks he has me convinced that I’m getting paid on Monday, but I know better.  I’m sure he will call me in the morning with some excuse for why he wasn’t able to get the plan to her or whatnot.  But what he doesn’t know is that I called Genevieve back a few minutes after their last call. I played dumb and told her basically what he told me.  That she will be paying me on Mon. and he will transfer to the other jail at that time.

Genevieve was all kinds of “hell no!” and she forcefully (but politely) explained to me that they don’t have any money for bail and he is going to sit there and tough it out.  So now I’m ready to call Zeb on his lies to me when he calls me in the morning.  Hopefully, I will get him to scout out at least one good bond while he is in there to make it all worthwhile for me.

So like I said…I’m out like $30 in collect calls, but at least I got a story out of it.

-bbc


Day 1 of Training

July 1, 2009
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In my state, you are required by law to complete 20 hours of classroom training before you are allowed to take a 60 question test to become a bail bondsman.  I’m not really clear on the math seeing as how Day 1 lasted from 8:30am-5:30pm with 1hr lunch and probably 30 minutes for breaks and the last day (Day 2), is scheduled from roughly 8am-4pm with a lunch break.

Anyway, there are only 4 instructors in the state licensed to teach the class.  My instructor has been in the business for 25 years and as near as I can tell is likely a multi-millionaire.  The dude carried two cell phones and took so many phone calls during class that I lost count.  But on almost all of the calls, he put the phone into speaker mode so we could hear.  I found the majority of the calls to be quite illuminating to say the least.

There were 5 or perhaps 6 participants in my class today, depending on how you look at it.  One guy showed up late and the instructor clearly asked him if he was there for the 2 day class and went through what this means with the guy.  The guy insisted he was in the right place.  At 4pm, he discovered that he was not in the right class and had signed up for an 8 hour/1 day course for a different test.  By the time he figured it out, that other class had finished and I guess he was SOL.  The kicker?  This dude has been a practicing bondsman for 5 years!

The rest of the class broke down like this:

  • Woman who has been assisting her brother for years in his bail bonds business.  The brother has recently been subject to some Federal charges for something.  The woman has a regular day job in the Education sector.
  • Young guy who used to be a jail guard, but isn’t doing that any longer.   But his daddy is the #2 guy at the jail. Apparently, he is hooked up with some Mexicans and plans to expand into bounty hunting for them.
  • Older guy who works as a repo guy and is looking to expand into human repos (i.e. bounty hunting).
  • Guy in his 30’s, it, clean cut, ex-military.  Owns his own business, but is getting pushed out by illegal workers who can undercut his services by 70%.  Looking to change careers and figured with bail bonds, his military training will come in handy.
  • Me.

I wore jeans, a nice white button down shirt, and sport coat.  I was the best dressed guy there, and it worked out for me.  I explained to the instructor that I am looking for a mentor figure to employee me short-term (up to a year) while I learn the business.  After that, I told him I wanted to open up my own firm.   The instructor told me he would be willing to take me on. Later, I discovered that I would be like bail bondsman #120 working under him.  The guy has quite an empire.   Hmm…no wonder he is only “semi-retired” and still teaches the classes!

He also put me and the ex-military guy (I think he gets the same offer) in touch with local Surety company.  The company representative was in town and came by for a visit.  We talked a while and he told me that I could expect to make up to $100,000/yr if I listen to them and avoid dumbass mistakes.

What was interesting to me is that a month ago, when I was writing my business plan, I had a lengthy e-mail conversation with the president of the Surety company (fairly small operation).  That guy refused to answer any of my questions until I was licensed, yet here is this other guy who is practically kissing my ass and answering every question I had!  Something to be weary of, to be sure.  On the other hand, there is no law requiring me to work with only a single Surety company, so I can (and should) sign up with a couple of different ones.  In any case, the guy invited me down to his HQ (approx 2 hr. drive) next week to spend the day learning about them and what they have to offer.

The training class was at times mind-numbing boring as the instructor just read the text on the page…for roughly 35 of the 52 pages we covered today.  But then at other times, he would take a call or tell us a story based on his experiences and everyone would perk up.  We lucked out in that tomorrow he has to be in Federal court at 10am to write a $50k bond (took him 3 weeks to put it together) and he is going to take us with him so we get a “hands-on” experience!

-bbc


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