There are a few ways to build a bail bond business in Orange County, but none easier or cheaper than hiring inmates inside the jail to refer you fresh customers every day. “Capping” , as it’s known, has been going on inside every jail in California for decades and the illegal activity shows no signs of slowing down.
Under California Penal Code 160(a)1, it is illegal for inmates inside of county jails to solicit or recommend any bail bond agency to any other inmates. The bail bond business is regulated by the California Department of Insurance (DOI) and soliciting is strictly prohibited inside of courts or jails because of inherent conflicts of interest and consumer abuse that exists.
The “capping” scam goes like this: You’ve been arrested and are taken to the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana. You’re going through the beginning stages of the booking process in what is known as “The Loop” at the IRC (Intake release Center). Its’ here you get fingerprinted, photographed and a background check is made. You’re eventually placed into a cell with one or several other inmates where there are payphones to make calls to family, friends, a bail bondsman or anybody else that might be able to help. A curious inmate approaches you and begins talking and asking questions. What begins as an innocent conversation leads to questions about your background, the reason for your arrest and what your bail amount is. This eventually leads to; “Hey, let me recommend a bail bondsman that can get you out now! Here is his phone number.” What you don’t realize is this unassuming cellmate of yours is paid by the bondsman to refer them business. Oftentimes these paid cappers use strong-arm tactics and threats if you don’t take their suggestion. Not surprising considering they’re paid based on your decision to call the favored bondsman. You’ve never been in this situation before, you’re scared and you’ve got only one thought - GET OUT NOW! You reluctantly make the call and arrange for bail with one of these fraudulent bail businesses. Despite efforts to gain control of this widespread problem by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, capping remains the single best source of revenue generation for fraudulent bail businesses. Recent data tells us 45% or more of all bail bonds written in Orange County are generated through inmate “Capping” and/or illegal referrals.
Victims of this crime are numerous and varied; The defendant, defendant’s family or friends, the entire criminal justice system and other bail agencies trying to legally compete. It should be of no surprise that a company using illegal capping to generate business will take a clients money then surrender them right back into custody even though they are making all scheduled court appearances. Bail bond contracts, or Indemnity Agreements as they are known, gives the issuing company extraordinary authority over their clients freedom. These shady companies often impose unnecessary conditions and extort additional money at every opportunity.
These are common occurrences in Orange County and there is little oversight, no refunds and no recourse to the victims. As a select few rouge bail agencies continue to abuse the bail bond business, it’s also the courts and tax payers that suffer the consequence. Unpaid Summary Judgments (money owed to the court because of a failure to appear) go unpaid and defendants retuned back into custody prematurely cost taxpayers millions every year. The enforcement of laws regulating bail in California are virtually non- existent, which creates fertile ground for those wanting to pray on innocent victims and abuse the system. The DOI relies on local and state law enforcement to file and convict bail businesses before taking any action against them, such as revoking bail licenses or shutting businesses down.
This problem has persisted for many years across the entire state but receives little or no attention. So it’s left to local law enforcement, namely the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, to come up with new and innovative ways of preventing capping inside the jail’s. I believe it’s not an impossible task and only takes a commitment, effort and willingness to think outside the box by Sheriff Hutchins to prevent the scammers from scamming inside our local jails.
About the author: Jason Meyerson is the owner and operator of Bail Bond Professionals in Tustin since 1999. He is the current Vice President of Orange County Bail Agents Associaton and strong advocate for honesty and integrity in the bail bond business. www.orangecounty-bailbonds.com (a) No bail licensee may employ, engage, solicit, pay, or promise any payment, compensation, consideration or thing of value to any person incarcerated in any prison, jail, or other place of detention for the purpose of that person soliciting bail on behalf of the licensee.