In the last 15 years, Americans became obsessed with hearing the stories of the bail bondsman. In particular, bounty hunters.
TV started the trend and the Internet has no problem picking up where cable TV left off. It’s understandable; bail bondsman and bounty hunters have some pretty crazy stories.
If you’re as obsessed now as you were the first time you saw bad guys getting chased down, this post is right up your alley.
We take a look at the highest bail bonds ever set and the crimes that got committed to get them set so high.
What’s a Bail Bond?
When someone gets arrested, they face a judge who determines a set amount of money for the person to get out of jail. This money ensures that the person charged with the crime shows up for their court date. In most cases, the bail amount is set according to the severity of the crime.
Difference Between a Bondsman and a Bounty Hunter
Most people think bondsmen and bounty hunters are the same, but their jobs are actually quite different.
Not everyone arrested and charged with a crime can come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars. So a bail bondsman puts up a loan (the bail bond itself) in return for a percentage of the total bail.
For example, if bail gets set at $100,000, a bondsman steps in with the bond. In exchange, he or she will charge 10% of the bond, in this case, $10,000. Often, the bondsman needs some kind of collateral like a car title.
Then an insurance company secures the bail bond. The bail bond itself is insurance that the person charged with a crime shows up to court. If they don’t show up to their court date, they’ve skipped on the bail.
The bondsman is now responsible for paying it. View here for more information on how bail bond services work.
A warrant goes out for the person who skipped court. The police either can’t find the person or get too busy to hunt them down, so a bondsman hires a bail enforcement agent or bounty hunter to do it.
So, how much do bounty hunters make? They’ll get 10-20% of the total bail bond. If they work enough cases, they can pull in as much as $50,000-$80,000 a year.
But the hours are grueling. Bounty hunters sometimes work between 80-100 hours per week.
Highest Bail Bonds Ever Set
Bail bonds services is a lucrative industry, pulling in $2 billion every year. There’s about 15,500 bail bondsman throughout the United States. Most bonds don’t reach six figures, but the ones you’re about to see did and, in some cases, surpassed it.
1. Antonio Willis – $4 Billion
On December 31, 2017, Antonio Willis’ bond was set at $4 billion. It holds the current record for the highest bail ever set. About six weeks later, a district judge in Texas found the amount was unconstitutional and it got lowered to $150,000.
What sparked the judge to set it so high in the first place? Willis’ charge was murder and the judge hearing the case, Claudia Brown, was going to set it at $100,000.
She said that “authorities” wanted it set at $1 million, so she upped the ante out of “annoyance.” The jail’s booking software doesn’t go that high so it got recorded in the system as $1,000,000,999.00
2. Robert Durst – $3 Billion
In 2004, New York real estate heir Robert Durst’s $4 billion dollar bail dropped after an appeals court found it unconstitutional. It got lowered to $450,000, $150,000 for each of the offenses he got charged with.
At the time, Durst was being held on one count of bond jumping and two counts of tampering with evidence. All charges have connections to a murder case he got acquitted of the year prior.
Since 1982, Durst has been accused of murdering three people. The first case was his former wife Kathie. Durst wasn’t charged with her death since her body was never found.
In 2003, a jury found him not guilty of murdering his elderly neighbor and dismembering him in Texas.
Durst was the subject of a 2015 HBO documentary entitled “The Jinx.” Less than a year after it aired, New Orleans police arrested him for the 2000 murder of his friend Susan Berman.
A month later, he made a plea deal for a weapons charge in which he will serve seven years in prison. As of September 2018, Durst is awaiting trial for the murder of Berman.
3. Kim Freeman – $1 Billion
An Ohio judge set Kim Freeman’s bail at $1 billion in 2005. Freeman and three others stood accused of running a brothel. Freeman’s bail got set as high as it did because prosecutors convinced the judge she was a flight risk to Asia.
4. Dmitry Firtash – $174 Million
Dmitry Firtash’s bail was actually set by an Austrian court for $125 million Euros ($174 million). That’s where he’s awaited extradition to the U.S. for being the head of an international titanium racket. Firtash is also accused of bribery and other crimes associated with the criminal organization.
5. Kening Ma – $150 Million
Kening Ma and his wife, Shirley Ji, allegedly violated California Air Resources Board regulations. Ma’s bail got set at $150 million, while Ji’s was $75 million.
The State accused the couple of importing and selling motorcycles and ATVs that failed to meet the state’s emissions control laws. The indictment included 72 total counts, including 30 counts of fraudulent smog certificates.
6. Christopher Williams – $100 Million
In 2010, a Memphis judge set Christopher Williams’ bail at $100 million. Williams’ charges included attempted second-degree murder, carjacking, and aggravated robbery. He also faced a firearms charge.
The judge said Williams’ previous bail-skipping and his long criminal record were factors in the decision.
7. Raj Rajaratnam – $100 Million
Raj Rajaratnam, the founder of Galleon Group, held the record for the largest bail amount when his $100 million bail got set in 2009. At one point, the Galleon Group was one of the world’s largest hedge funds.
Rajaratnam faced accusations of leading a $20 million insider-trading scheme. The charges included 14 counts of conspiracy and seven counts of securities fraud.
In 2011, a federal jury found Rajaratnam guilty on all counts. He got sentenced to 11 years in prison and fines that totaled $150 million.
Spark Your Curiosity
The life of a bondsman is pretty stressful, especially when you’re dealing with hardened criminals all day. Not to mention, you’re the one who’s responsible for paying the bail bond if the accused skips on it.
It may not be too bad if you’re talking a couple hundred dollar, but can you imagine being stuck holding the bag for hundreds of thousands of dollars?
Check out the people section of our blog for more interesting stories!