Professional Association Presses for Stricter Regulations for Bounty Hunters

Chuck Jordan, the current president of the National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents (NAFRA) is striving to get federal rules on training in place for bounty hunters in hopes of stopping the bad PR that his profession has been receiving. Jordan is also calling for background checks which he said will help weed out bounty hunters who may have serious criminal charges against them.

This type of regulation would not be highly welcomed by the freelance bounty hunters who use the occupation as a way to make money on the side. Rob “Daddy Rat” Hoyt is an Idaho trucker who says that he is able to make good money as a bounty hunter, due in part to the lack of regulation, especially in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. In fact, only four states in the nation do not allow private citizens to bounty hunt.

The occupation attracts people from all walks of life due to its mainly hands-off approach which gives bounty hunters lots of free time to pursue other interests while still having the opportunity to make good money. Bounty hunters are typically paid by bondsmen when someone flees after making bond. Bounty hunters generally receive 10-20% of the bond plus expenses as payment for the capture of the fugitive. With some bonds in excess of $100,000, this serves as a very lucrative side business.

Michael O’Halloran of Wyoming Fugitive Investigations in Cheyenne, Wyoming is against stricter regulations for bounty hunters. He believes that additional restrictions would prevent bounty hunters from completing their missions. He pointed to an 1873 Supreme Court decision which gives bounty hunters the right to break into a property if a fugitive is known to occupy it.

While NAFRA waits to gain regulation approval, its professionals are doing what they can to protect the reputation of the industry by pairing rookies with seasoned professionals in an apprentice-like role.

Should There Be a National Law to Regulate Bounty Hunters?

While many bounty hunters feel strongly that their profession should not be tightly regulated, at least one major professional organization disagrees. Tired of the bad press from rogue bounty hunters, the National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents (NAFRA) favors stronger regulation.

While all but four states allow bounty hunters who are private citizens to track down fugitives, about one-third of the states that do allow the practice don’t license armed bounty hunters. Bounty hunters in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have particularly hands-off approaches from their state governments.

Given the high stakes involved and the potential high pay, the profession draws some bad apples. For instance, Boston self-proclaimed fugitive recovery agent Kirk Figueroa made the national news when he shot two police officers with a tactical shotgun when they responded to a domestic disturbance call at his residence.

Chuck Jordan, the head of NAFRA, argues that imposing federal rules on the training of bounty hunters and instigating background checks will weed out dubious characters with criminal backgrounds who turn to the lucrative field of bounty hunting.

On the other side of the issue are a number of bounty hunters who fear that such regulations will hamper their ability to do business. Wyoming Fugitive Investigations bounty hunter Michael O’Halloran points out that a Supreme Court decision from 1873 gives them every right to break down the door without a warrant if the house is known to contain a fugitive.

Some measures suggest that the current system works well since nearly 90% of the people who jump bail get nabbed. Some of the most successful bounty hunters resort to trickery to nail fugitives that minimizes the amount of violence involved. For instance, bounty hunters with Wyoming Fugitive Investigations have been known to dress up as a FedEx delivery person and knock on a door holding an empty box.

It remains to be seen whether the long history of independent bounty hunters will continue or whether the feds will crack down on the practice. Fugitive recovery agents do fill a void, since many police officers find the long stakeouts involved in catching fugitives to not be worth their time.

Bounty Hunters Take Matters into Their Own Hands

Two fugitives were recently captured by bounty hunters at an Econo Lodge Inn & Suites in Spokane, Washington. Justin Jordan, 34, of Spokane and Shanda Hansen, 32, of Idaho were taken into custody after a standoff at the hotel resulted in bounty hunters dispersing a tear gas canister into the room. The two fugitives had open warrants for theft charges along with lengthy criminal histories.

Shaun Beveridge, one of the bounty hunters involved in the capture, reported that the pair was found after a tip was received indicating their whereabouts. Jordon and Hansen were in a stolen SUV in the parking lot when the bounty hunters showed up and the couple attempted to run them over, Beveridge disclosed. He said the pair then ran into their motel room and barricaded the door.

The bounty hunters called for police backup at approximately 2 a.m. but officers departed shortly after arrival. Officer Teresa Fuller of the Spokane Police Department explained that they did not have jurisdiction on Hansen’s warrant, which was from Kootenai County, so they left. “We don’t assist bondsmen because they have their own rules, and a lot of times their rules are a lot more lax than ours,” Fuller said.

Beveridge expressed his disappointment over the officer response, adding that fugitive Jordan had called in bomb threats to a local hospital in an attempt to divert law enforcement officers from the scene.

The bounty hunters finally took the situation into their own hands at about 4:30 a.m. by smashing a window and dispersing the tear gas. Police were called once again after the fugitives were apprehended and the pair was taken into custody. Hansen was transferred to Kootenai County and Jordan was taken to Spokane County Jail after receiving treatment at a local hospital. A room search after the stand-off turned up stolen property, knives and guns.

Bounty Hunter Uses Celebrity to Find Parents of Murdered Toddler

Gene “Tat-2” Thacker is known in Louisiana as a for-hire bounty hunter, but he is also known as one of the central figures in Spike-TV realty series “Big Justice” which first aired in 2012. The owner of Hookem and Bookem Elite Fugitive Recovery, LLC recently used his celebrity to put pressure on the parents of 2-year-old Timothy Thompson whose body was found in a shallow grave under a bridge in July.

“This girl allegedly took her own child’s life, and it became way personal for me. That’s why I basically started my own war,” said Thacker. He began his search of the child’s mother, 21-year-old Gabrielle Whittington, immediately following a police warrant being issued for her arrest. Thacker tracked down people who knew Whittington and hit the streets pounding on doors and asking a lot of questions. He said he didn’t want to overstep the boundaries of the U.S. Marshals but he was compelled to conduct his own search.

After searching for over 24 hours without stopping, Thacker took to Facebook to get his message out. He posted information on Whittington on his personal Facebook page and said that within six hours the post was shared over a thousand times. Whittington turned herself into police later that weekend and Thacker is convinced that it is because of the pressure he put on her and those who knew her whereabouts.

While the coroner has still not been able to determine the exact cause of the toddler’s death, it has been ruled a homicide. The mother of Onterio Thompson, the child’s father, said that the couple needs to be held accountable for their crime and said that she will not lie or make excuses for her son.

Whittington has been charged with second-degree murder and her bond was set at $500,000. Twenty-one-year-old Onterio Thompson has also been charged with second-degree murder in the child’s death.

Cyber Bounty Hunting – The Other Kind of Bounty Hunting

There is a new type of bounty hunting where the work can be done without stepping out of the house. Cyber bounty hunting has become a lucrative career for those who have the ability to find security vulnerabilities in the computer networks of large corporations.

Twenty-one-year-old Nathaniel Wakelam earned over $20,000 in just one month and says he can usually clear $250,000 per year. Wakelam began his career at the age of 18 and does most of his work at home or in the local coffee shops of Melbourne, California.

Companies like Microsoft, Tesla, Google and Apple offer prizes to bounty hunters to find vulnerabilities in their software. The prizes are part of corporate bug bounty programs or vulnerability rewards programs (VRP) which pay individuals to find bugs in software programs. Prizes can be as high as $200,000.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) implemented a similar program in March when 58 participants were invited to find vulnerabilities in its security. The program, called Hack the Pentagon, yielded 134 vulnerabilities during a three week period and paid out over $70,000 in bounties.

David Dworken, a 2016 high school graduate, received a personal invitation by the Pentagon to participate in the program. On his very first day he found six vulnerabilities. Dworken became a bounty hunter after successfully hacking his school’s website at just 16-years-old. He began collecting bounties within two years of the hack and has collected money and even airline miles using his cyber skills.

Facebook has paid more than $4.3 million in fees to bounty hunters since 2011 when they first launched their bug bounty program. More than 800 bounty hunters from 127 countries have participated in the program. In May, a 10-year-old boy from Finland found a vulnerability in Instragram’s code and was awarded $10,000.

For bounty hunters, the appeal is in the problem solving, but the monetary rewards sure don’t hurt.

Fort Collins Bounty Hunter Questioned in Shooting

An investigation into the shooting of two men in Fort Collins, Colorado is focused on a local bounty hunter, Vonshay McCarthur. On June 15, Lupe and Roger Sanchez were allegedly shot by McCarthur after he contacted Lupe Sanchez in regards to an outstanding warrant. Charges are pending in the shooting until the police investigation is complete.

McCarthur was questioned by police hours after the incident. According to McCarthur, the Sanchez’s who both had felony warrants, tried to hit him with a vehicle they were driving. The incident occurred in a parking lot of near Rocky Mountain High School. McCarthur said that he started shooting when the car came towards him, hitting both Lupe and Roger Sanchez. Both victims suffered minor injuries and have since been detained in county jail for additional violations.

While the facts according to McCarthur seem cut and dry, some questions linger. First, police are looking into why it took four hours after the shooting for McCarthur to call them. Second, questions regarding why both McCarthur and the victims fled the scene remain.

The shooting also has opened up a discussion about inadequate regulations for bounty hunters in Colorado. In 2012 laws regulating training and background check requirements were repealed in the state. Bail agents no longer have to run background checks on bounty hunters that they hire. Additionally, bounty hunters are no longer required to take a course on bail enforcement.

“The only recourse is private lawsuits … if something goes wrong,” stated Vincent Plymell, speaking on behalf of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Despite the lack of regulations, bounty hunters must still abide by the laws. While a bounty hunter can be given the authority to make an arrest, they can face criminal charges if it is found they used excessive force.

In the meantime, McCarthur’s case continues to be investigated to determine if the shooting was self-defense, in which case, no charges will be filed.

Husband and Wife Team Strive for Kinder, Gentler Bounty Hunting

When people think of bounty hunters, many people conjure up images of Dog the Bounty Hunter and his crew, kicking doors in and arresting uncooperative criminals. Not all bounty hunters chose such a forceful path.

Sherrie Corbin is a 52-year-old mother, nurse, and bounty hunter. She works with her husband in Michigan to catch people that skip out on court dates, and she tries to give them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. After all, no one wants to have to deal with a bounty hunter if they can avoid it.

As she hunts down people, Corbin tries to talk to them about their situation. She understands that in some cases, people are afraid of going to prison, and running seems like the best option. She says that many situations arise out of illegal drug use, especially meth. Corbin wants to let people know this can be the last time they need to deal with a bounty hunter.

Jeff Potter, one of her associates, also works as a paramedic and notes that being a bounty hunter requires a lot of social awareness. He often needs to have a strong bead on people, even to the point of convincing mothers to rat their children out.

Ultimately, Corbin and Potter say that bounty hunting is most successful when they are involved in their local communities. Potter donates to local baseball teams and organizes community drives. He also maintains pleasant ties with people who he’s worked with before and gives people plenty of chances to get to the courthouse before he comes after them. He says that by sticking close to the community, he and his company have never lost a single person in seven years.

Cancer Patient Turned Bounty Hunter: One Woman’s Amazing Story

After surviving two rounds of colon cancer, amassing almost a million dollars in medical bills, and struggling to provide for four children, 35 year-old Shanda Zapata was desperate to improve her lot. So in 2013, after just 6 weeks of basic combat training Zapata put down her Hooters uniform and picked up an assault rifle. Bounty hunting had become her salvation.

Shanda Zapata was only 19 years old when she was first diagnosed with colon cancer. Luckily, at the time, her mother’s health insurance covered the expenses accrued through surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. When the cancer returned 12 years later, she wasn’t so lucky.

With medical bills mounting to $800,000, Zapata began getting sued by hospitals seeking payment and bankruptcy seemed almost inevitable.

Yet, Zapata didn’t make the career change to bounty hunting purely for its potential to generate large payouts. In a recent article published by The Sun Zapata is quoted as saying, “I chose this job because I get to help people and sort of be a bad ass. When I put a child molester away, it feels great. It makes me feel that bit stronger that I can do this for my community.”

Today, Zapata has 3 years of bounty hunting experience as is legally allowed to practice her profession in 47 states. Since bounty hunting remains a largely unregulated job, it is often a dangerous one. As a result, Zapata often takes a “safety in numbers” approach by working collaboratively with other bounty hunters. To date, her greatest achievement is capturing an alleged child murderer, nabbing a cool $20,000 reward for her and her teammates.

Of course, not all cancer survivors can become bounty hunters. But considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls colon cancer the second leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in the country, it’s still inspiring to see one woman prove that it’s possible.

Dog and Beth End Their Show For a Good Cause

Even with the high popularity of their TV show Dog and Beth: On the Hunt, Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman and Beth are calling it quits for now. They are doing so for an excellent reason, however.

With the bail industry under attack nationwide, Beth is running for the position of president of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States (PBUS). She is highly concerned about the bail reform movements springing up throughout the country that would end cash bail systems. Beth told In Touch that “This would be a disaster.”

Legal actions are taking place in such key states as California. A recent lawsuit in the state claimed that the cash bail system is unconstitutional and seeked to get rid of it.

Generally, the bail bond industry has not challenged these types of legal actions. Beth seeks to change that as president of the PBUS. She argues that “The bail industry provides a service to the government and helps ensure the public’s safety.” Beth went so far as to call the people seeking these changes “social justice lackeys” and claimed that their only goal is to make it easier for criminals to get out of jail.

Duane shares these concerns and feels that suspending their show will help prevent the bail system in the US from being dismantled. He argues that there will no longer be an industry in which to work without intervention from all of the professional associations.

Beth has a highly credible record of intervening in legal challenges seeking to dismantle the bail bond system. She worked with the California Bail Agents Association to help ensure that they were listed as interveners defending the industry along with the city of San Francisco. Their efforts were highly successful, and the lawsuit was all but dismissed in San Francisco.

Duane’s wife is so committed to this cause that she has a “crisis team” ready to quickly assist state associations when they need to fight such challenges in court. With her level of experience and diligence, it is highly likely that Beth will help prevent the spread of legislation to end the bail bond industry.

Three Things Star Wars Gets Wrong About Bounty Hunters

Star Wars: the Force Awakens has broken the box office, to no one’s surprise. But what might come as a surprise to some is the fact that the depiction of bounty hunter’s in Star Wars is far from accurate. Here are three things Star Wars gets wrong about real bounty hunting.

  1. Bounty hunters are not assassins

In Star Wars, governments and private parties seeking to capture or kill a desired target can employ bounty hunters. Jango Fett is paid by the Confederacy in Episode II to assassinate Padmé, Boba Fett and numerous others are contracted by Jabba the Hutt, a gangster, to capture Han Solo for debt collection in the original trilogy.

Bounty hunters are never contracted to kill people. For legal, moral, and financial reasons, it is never in the bounty hunter’s best interest to kill unless defending from an attacking fugitive. In the worst case, when a bounty hunter has to kill a skip attempting to harm them, the bounty hunter does not receive any compensation.

  1. Bounty hunters do not work for private interests

Mentioned above, bounty hunters in the Star Wars series can be contracted by governments, businesses, private persons, or even gangs.

In reality, bounty hunters work for the government, and only look for fugitives who have skipped bail. Rather than a gun-for-hire, or a morally grey assassin, bounty hunters today work to ensure justice is carried out, even when the accused attempt to flee their punishment.

  1. Bounty hunting is not illegal

In Star Wars, bounty hunters work from planet-to-planet, and therefore subvert the laws of each system. Bounty hunters don’t treat this as a moral issue; it is simply part of the job.

Bounty hunters in the real world work within the legal system, not against it. When an accused person signs the bail document, they sign most of their constitutional rights away. When they flee the court, bounty hunters therefore are legally exempt from many of the traditional requirements police have to follow in apprehending suspects. A bounty hunter in America can enter a residence or building without announcing themselves, they can even enter under false pretenses or break in. Not only this, but bounty hunters can also make arrests without reading Miranda rights and legally cross state lines. The only real lines that can’t be crossed by bail collection officers are international ones; bounty hunters can be arrested or shot for pursuing accused persons outside of the United States, since their legal protections only go as far as American jurisdiction.

Star Wars, ultimately, is a good story, and so can be forgiven for its inaccurate portrayal of bounty hunting. But the reality, as shown above, can sometimes be just as exciting as fiction.

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