A judge has ruled that there is enough evidence that suggests that the owner of a Modesto bail bonds business needs to stand trial based on accusations that he has held clients against their will in order to participate in the extortion of money from them. Owner of AJ’s Bail Bonds, Aleo John Pontillo, is charged with conspiracy to kidnap individuals for the purpose of extortion, violating state insurance regulations, and conspiracy to commit grand theft. The judge dismissed one count of insurance fraud against the man, claiming that there was not enough evidence presented to support the accusation in that circumstance.
The judge has scheduled the man to return to court April 18 in order to have an arraignment hearing. The defense attorney has argued that the owner was acting within the law and that bondsmen have the authority to detain people who have failed to agree and comply with their bail agreements. The judge said, however, that the bail bonds business has the right to arrest and bring clients to their office only for a short period of time before they will be given to the police. They are not allowed to keep clients for longer than that period of time and especially not allowed to be kept for extortion.
If the man is convicted of the crimes that he has been charged with, he will face a maximum sentence of life in prison. One of the clients claimed that he was taken from his home to the bail bond business and then handcuffed to a weight bench until his father was able to arrive with the money. Since he owed money on his bail bond, the owner had told him that he had to make the payment or he would not be released at all. There were other clients who said that they were held at the business and then told that they would need to “come up with the money” or otherwise they would go to jail. At one point, a client claimed that they were showed a stun gun and threatened with it if they were not able to make the payments.
The office manager and the bail agent for the business are also waiting to be charged with crimes as well. They are accused of conspiring to steal more than $250,000 from the county by submitting fraudulent bail bond claims. The owner’s bail is currently set at $1.3 million. Although his attorney has argued that this bail is too high for the man to keep supporting and that it’s unnecessary since he does not believe that his client will disappear or avoid going to court, prosecutors have said that it is reasonable because the man is facing life in prison and that’s generally the normal amount for most clients under that situation. The attorney claims that it is putting his client under financial burden and that after he has researched more information regarding the bail claim, he may request for a lower bail again.