This is part one of a multi part story about the Criminal case against AJ Pontillo In Stanislaus County, California. I sat down with AJ recently and listened to his side of this saga. Here is a synopsis:
In 2007 investigators began contacting employees to tell them he was breaking the law by bringing bail jumpers back to office, In an attempt to pressure them into talking, He was doing $3 mil a year in business and outspoken about the DA and investigators, which drew attention to his business.
First of three raids were done on 2-3-2010 by DA investigators and done during business hours, there were 14 investigators from DA’s office and on the central valley task force, Carrying m16’s and begin kicking in locked doors that could be opened by employees on site. In fact keys were offered, but doors were kicked anyway. Subsequent raids were done at night after hours and even more damage was done to just gain entry and the cameras were the first thing disabled.
The funny part is that he was billed for the cost of the raids even though they did all the damage to his property. And there was a large amount of cash removed from the property. As yet to be returned.
The search warrant for that search indicated all people involved were witnesses and not suspects in any crime. But yet fully dressed in raid “raid jackets” and carrying large bore rifles. They were looking for a “paper file” in an investigation according to the warrant. The officers doing the raid were DA investigators and members of the gang task force from multiple cities. They were also carrying Federal ID’s, Meaning with this group working under the federal guise would be able to use the asset forfeiture laws to confiscate any property or money. Which is exactly what they did.
The business would bring back bail jumpers to the office to try to make them understand that they understand the conditions of their agreements for bail and many times it was just finding out where they are living or sometimes it was waiting for the Bounty hunters to pick them up.
He was arrested 18 months later on 9-14-2011, so there was an investigation since 2007, A search warrant 3 years later on 2-3-2010, Then an arrest 18 months later on 9-14-2011. Pretty slow investigation and when that happens it usually means there is scant or no evidence just a want to convict someone.
Preliminary hearing occurred on 12-18-2012 and he was held over for trial as is usually the case in these things. Preliminary hearings allow prop 115 or so called “hearsay” testimony unlike a trial that involves actual witness testimony and do not have a lot of witnesses mostly just police officers testifying to their investigation so it almost always goes to the DA’s favor.
Trial began in July of 2014, after most charges were dropped, Lasting 5 months and ending in an acquittal on 12-10-2014 The jurors found AJ not guilty of conspiracy to kidnap for the purpose of extortion and conspiring with employees in an alleged bail-forfeiture fraud. They also found the defendant not guilty of less serious charges of false imprisonment, attempted false imprisonment and extortion, which were offered as options to the jury.