Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
MAN CHARGED WITH ACTING AS BAIL AGENT
WITHOUT A LICENSE AND SOLICITING INMATE CLIENTS WITH THREE CO-DEFENDANTS
*Defendant also charged with identity theft for unlawful use of
legitimate bail bondsman’s license number
SANTA ANA – A man has been charged with acting as a bail bonds agent without a license by plotting with three co-defendants to solicit inmates as clients from Orange County Jail. Ernesto Perez, 36, Burbank, is charged with 21 felony counts of negotiating bail without a license and 16 felony counts of identity theft. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 27 years in state prison. Perez was arraigned today and is being held on $150,000 bail. He is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing March 23, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-57, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Three co-defendants are currently in custody for other unrelated crimes and their bail in this case is to be determined. They are scheduled to be arraigned April 12, 2011, in Department C-57, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Jonathan Thomas Campos, 27, is charged with two felony counts of violation of bail license regulations and two felony counts of soliciting bail without a license. He faces a maximum of five years in state prison if convicted. Jason Anthony Gatewood, 22, is charged with two felony counts of violation of bail license regulations and five felony counts of soliciting bail without a license. He faces a maximum of seven years in state prison if convicted. Mark Ward, 47, is charged with one felony count of violation of bail license regulations and two felony counts of soliciting bail without a license. He faces a maximum of four years and four months in state prison if convicted.
In regards to Perez, California law prohibits any person from negotiating the execution or delivery of bail unless they are a bail bonds licensee. If Perez had been a licensed bail bondsman, his actions would still be criminal. California law prohibits bail bond licensees from unlawfully soliciting bail business from any inmate or incarcerated person to protect them from undue influence during a vulnerable time in their lives. In regards to Campos, Gatewood, and Ward, California law prohibits any person without a bail bonds license from arranging for the bail of another for compensation or receiving commission for a bail transaction.
Between Aug. 5, 2010, and Feb. 24, 2011, defendants Campos, Gatewood, and Ward were in custody in the Orange County Jail. During this time, Perez is accused of plotting with his three co-defendants for them to solicit other in-custody inmates to contact Perez to provide their bail. The defendant was employed by Plotkin Bail Bonds but is not a licensed bail bondsman.
On 21 occasions, Perez is accused of acting as a bail bondsman without a license by negotiating with inmates to post their bail. Campos, Gatewood, and Ward are accused of receiving payment from Perez in the form of money posted to their jail accounts in exchange for the illegal solicitations on behalf of Perez.
On 16 occasions during this time period, Perez is also accused of illegally using a legitimate bail bond license number belonging to a licensed bail bondsman from Bakersfield without the victim’s knowledge or consent. Perez is accused of using this stolen license number to log in to an Orange County Sheriff’s Department database accessible only to licensed bail bondsmen to look up inmate bail information.
The investigation is ongoing. Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.