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Acquitted bail bondsman

A bail bondsman who was acquitted of fraud and kidnapping for extortion has filed a claim with Stanislaus County and the cities of Modesto and Ceres seeking tens of thousands of dollars in damages. He claimed law enforcement agencies violated his civil rights.

The three claims were filed on behalf of Aleo John Pontillo earlier this month. Officials said the claims were still being reviewed. If rejected, the claims are a likely precursor to a civil lawsuit.

Pontillo alleged that the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department conducted defamation efforts against him for several years through the conclusion of his trial. The bail bondsman claimed these agencies and other law enforcement officials associated with the investigation falsely arrested Pontillo and maliciously prosecuted him.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson and District Attorney Birgit Fladager declined to comment about Pontillo’s civil claims.

Pontillo said he was a victim of retaliatory prosecution after he submitted public complaints about the investigation before he was arrested.

The claims, filed by Pontillo’s Vallejo-based attorney Tim Pori, each indicate he is seeking at least $25,000 in damages. But the final amount will be determined through further investigation.

Pontillo, owner of AJ’s Bail Bonds in Modesto, was arrested in September 2011. He was accused of holding clients against their will at the business on Yosemite Boulevard to get payments from them. He also was accused of conspiring with employees in bail-forfeiture fraud.

Nearly half of the criminal allegations against Pontillo were dropped by the court after some evidence surfaced during his trial. In December, a jury acquitted Pontillo of the remaining charges.

Pontillo presumably filed claims against Modesto and Ceres because the investigation into Pontillo involved law enforcement officials or other resources from those cities. At one point, federal officials took the lead in the investigation, using a federally funded task force of local gang investigators to serve search warrants at Pontillo’s business and home.

The filed claims indicate local law enforcement officials conducted a multimillion-dollar investigation based on conspiracies generated by a police informant and an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office seeking to defame Pontillo. The investigation began in early 2007.

On Dec. 23, 2008, law enforcement officials served a search warrant at the AJ’s Bail Bonds office. Investigators served a second search warrant at the business on Feb. 3, 2010. The claims indicate Pontillo and three employees were handcuffed and put on display in the front office.

A month later, Pontillo filed complaints about the investigation with the state’s attorney general’s office and the Stanislaus County civil grand jury. Both complaints were denied and no further investigation was conducted.

Pontillo that year also filed a complaint against Fladager with the State Bar of California for the second search warrant served at his business. About two months later, the State Bar closed Pontillo’s complaint without taking action against Fladager, according to the filed claims.

After his 2011 arrest, Pontillo said his bail was set at $2 million based on false declaration drafted by the prosecutor, and he was placed in a cell for inmates with tuberculosis and other problems. He said he tried to ask jail officials why he was housed in such a cell and if he could be moved to another cell, but he received no response.

Pontillo was later released on $1.3 million bail and remained out of custody throughout his trial. He said he was charged with $130,000 bail premium.

 

The Modesto Bee