If you ever find yourself charged with a crime, a bail bondsman can be your best friend. When a judge sets bail and the defendant doesn’t have the money to pay, the bondsman posts the money in exchange for an upfront fee – usually 10 percent of the bond amount – and property as collateral. All the defendant has to do is show up to court.
As Nilda Diaz, owner of Best Bail Bonds in Miami, is finding out, more accused criminals are ditching their property and jumping bail in today’s down economy, leaving her company in a bind. When a defendant disappears, the bondsman is on the hook for the court-ordered amount. The only way to get that money back is to get the fugitive back.
Diaz has seven clients – collectively worth $800,000 – who have jumped bail. All of the cases date back to 2008, the year the real estate market crashed. And all are on the lam overseas. She has tried to get authorities to extradite, even agreeing to pay all the costs, but not one has been returned to Florida. That’s because the state places a low priority on fugitives charged with non-violent felonies.
Under the Sun and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting teamed up to explore what happens when a fugitive is on the run and bondsmen are on the hunt. Tristram Korten speaks to Diaz about the dangerous task of finding and apprehending these fugitives. He also explores the lack of support from national, state and local agencies when it comes to bringing them back into the country to face charges.