“This investigation and the execution of arrest warrants required the resources of multiple law enforcement agencies. California Department of Insurance detectives and investigators work to protect the public from situations like those alleged with these bounty hunters.” – Alan Barcelona, CSLEA President
NATIONAL CITY– On October 7, 2022, the California Department of Insurance announced that a joint investigation into alleged illegal actions by bounty hunters has led to the arrest of two people.
National City Police, supported by the California Department of Insurance investigators and multiple federal and local agencies, executed arrest warrants on Daniel Johnathan Hawks, 43, and Annette Bianca Garcia, 36, who worked at a company called Fugitive Warrants. One other defendant, Jesse A. Wagner, 48, has been charged as well, with a million-dollar bail ordered for his arrest. Wagner is now considered a fugitive by the National City Police Department. Bounty hunters are also known as bail fugitive recovery agents.
Charges include multiple felony counts of kidnapping with the use of a firearm, false imprisonment, residential burglary and misdemeanor counts of false arrest under color of authority, brandishing a firearm, acting as a fugitive recovery person as a convicted felon, acting as a fugitive recovery person while unlawfully carrying weapons and failing to notify law enforcement prior to arresting a bail fugitive.
Search warrants were also simultaneously executed at several locations in San Diego and Riverside County where additional evidence was recovered. More than 40 personnel from the National City Police Department, the California Department of Insurance, United States Marshal Service, Homeland Security Investigations, San Diego Violent Crime Task Force, and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department were involved in the arrest and search warrant operations.
The arrests come after a joint investigation by National City Police and the California Department of Insurance into Fugitive Warrants, which is owned and operated by Jesse Wagner and his employees.
On June 10, 2022, National City Police received a radio call from a bail fugitive recovery agent in pursuit of a woman armed with a rifle. After responding to the scene and investigating, police learned that Wagner and his team arrested their fugitive and after doing so allegedly burglarized the fugitive and his girlfriend's residence.
According to the investigation, after allegedly burglarizing the residence, the bounty hunters located the fugitive's girlfriend, who was not wanted, and conducted a high-risk traffic stop on her in a car driven by her father. Wagner and his team are accused of falsely imprisoning them and transporting her back to her house in an attempt to locate the fugitive’s firearms. The joint investigation found that Wagner, Hawks, and Garcia were working illegally as bail fugitive recovery persons throughout this encounter.
The California Department of Insurance assisted National City Police Department in the subsequent follow-up investigation into Fugitive Warrants and its alleged unlawful activities. The California Department of Insurance regulates existing bail licensees and works closely with other law enforcement agencies to protect the public.
According to the California Department of Insurance, bounty hunters are required under the Bail Fugitive Recovery Persons Act (California Penal Code 1299) to undergo training and meet other conditions. While bail agents and sureties who hire bounty hunters are required to be licensed by the California Department of Insurance, bounty hunters currently are not.
Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara sponsored the recently signed into law AB 2043 (authored by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer), which requires all bail fugitive recovery agents, commonly known as “bounty hunters,” to be licensed by the California Department of Insurance to ensure that appropriate education and training requirements are met prior to licensure and that all applicants successfully pass fingerprint-based background checks, obtain an appointment from a licensed bail agent or surety insurer, and maintain a minimum $1 million liability insurance policy so that harmed consumers have an avenue to collect damages.
The California Department of Insurance is continuing the investigation into the hiring of the unpermitted bail fugitive recovery agents by the licensed bail agent. The case is being prosecuted by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.