A woman on Thursday pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit grand theft in a case involving a Modesto bail bonds business owner accused of extortion.
Janelle Marie Llorens worked as the officer manager at AJ’s Bail Bonds, according to prosecutors. She has agreed to testify against her two co-defendants in exchange for a plea deal.
Llorens and the bail bonds business owner, Aleo John Pontillo, are accused of conspiring in holding clients against their will to extort additional payments from them.
The third defendant in the case is Mark David Davis, who worked as a bail agent for the business. Davis is accused of conspiring with the other two to steal more than $250,000 from the county by submitting fraudulent bail bond claims.
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Initially, Llorens also was charged with conspiring to kidnap for the purpose of extortion, insurance fraud, perjury and violating state insurance regulations. Prosecutors will drop those charges when her testimony is no longer needed and as long as she fully cooperates.
Llorens’ conspiracy to commit grand theft charge has an enhancement of stealing more than $200,000. She could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Her plea deal guarantees that she will be sentenced to 180 days in jail, serve three years of probation and pay restitution.
Judge Scott Steffen scheduled Llorens to return to court Dec. 5 to be formally sentenced. But her sentencing could be postponed until the prosecution against Pontillo and Davis has concluded.
Pontillo is charged with conspiracy to kidnap for the purpose of extortion, conspiracy to commit grand theft and violating state insurance regulations.
Davis is charged with conspiracy to commit grand theft, perjury and violating state insurance regulations.
Authorities have said Llorens and Pontillo were responsible for handcuffing the clients and threatening them at the Yosemite Boulevard business from 2006 to 2008. Six people believed to have been victims are listed in court documents.
The scheme was for the sole purpose of extorting a bail bond “premium debt,” or additional payment, state investigators have said. The clients who could not make the payments were sent back to jail without cause, investigators said.
According to the investigators, Pontillo, Llorens and Davis conspired from 2006 to 2010 to defraud the county of money owed or soon to be owed under the bail forfeiture process.
The investigators said the defendants submitted bonds to the county to falsely represent that a fugitive of the court had been apprehended. Llorens and Davis were charged with perjury, accused of trying to further the scheme.
Pontillo’s trial is scheduled to start Monday in Stanislaus Superior Court. Davis is scheduled to return to court Oct. 3 for a pretrial hearing.