A California bail bondsman was arrested on June 2, 2023, for allegedly using phony photos to defraud several county governments of $528,000 in bail refunds for defendants who in reality had never been apprehended. Fausto Alitano, 60, who was once a live-in bodyguard for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), was charged with 14 felony counts of perjury and preparing false records.
Alitano is the owner of Fausto’s Bail Bonds, a Murrieta firm with locations across Southern California. A history of controversial business dealings stretches back at least as far as 1995, when Alitano was accused of running a Ponzi scheme. Those charges were eventually dropped.
In 2002, not long after leaving Schwarzenegger’s employ, Alitano used false pretenses to enter the home of a quadriplegic who was suing an executive of the manufacturer of the gym equipment that caused his injuries. The executive had ties to Alitano. The paralyzed former Marine and bodybuilder accused the bail bondsman in a lawsuit of illegally harassing him in his own home, where Alitano also allegedly made a secret tape recording to be used to the executive’s advantage in the lawsuit – which the paralyzed man eventually won.
In 2009 Alitano showed up in a YouTube video arresting a protestor with AnonOrange who was attempting to question then-Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone (R) outside the County Courthouse about his ties to the Church of Scientology. When Alitano recognized the questioner as one of his clients, he executed an arrest for alleged violation of bail terms– in apparent violation of state law requiring bail agents to provide advance notice to law enforcement. His contribution to Stone also apparently violated a state ban on political contributions by bail bondsmen. The questioner was held in the county jail for nine hours before it was determined that his bail status was fine.
In 2011 Alitano and an associate were accused of using a Taser on a local mayor’s daughter after trespassing to pursue an acquaintance who was not there. Police said his conduct crossed the line into illegality and announced misdemeanor battery and trespassing charges. But no charges were ever filed. Riverside County District Attorney’s Office Senior Public Information Spokesman John Hall said he could not comment when asked why.
In 2013 Alitano and another sidekick – who turned out to be Jeff Stone’s stepson – posed as law enforcement officers, brandishing handguns as they broke into the home of a young Temecula mom in a futile search for her estranged ex-husband. For that they were charged with felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon, plus misdemeanor charges of forcible entry, impersonating a law enforcement officer and failing to notify authorities of intent to apprehend a bail fugitive. It is unclear what happened after their December 2014 arraignment, but they were scheduled for a $100,000 felony settlement conference the following month.
In his most recent caper, Alitano is accused of submitting photographs of look-alikes posing as fugitives to collect refunds on bail money that his company had forfeited. The California Department of Insurance (DOI), which regulates the state’s bail bond industry, was instrumental in his arrest. When the agency learned that Alitano told Riverside County courts he had found fugitives in Mexico, DOI officials decided to take a closer look.
They interviewed several defendants who said they had never been in Mexico. Upon further investigation, Alitano’s elaborate scheme was uncovered: Willing officials in Mexico signed off on fraudulent documentation certifying the fugitives had been found in that country, and Alitano provided photographs of individuals closely resembling the fugitive. With the falsified records, courts exonerated the bonds and let Alitano off the financial hook.
As PLN has reported, when two other California bail agents hired bounty hunter Jose Navarro in April 2021 to find a defendant whose GPS tracking device had gone offline, he then murdered their client in his own home – but DOI said it had no recourse against the bail agents because bounty hunting was unregulated. That prompted state lawmakers to close that loophole with passage of AB 2043, the state law regulating bounty hunters, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on September 29, 2022. [See: PLN, May 2023, p.21.]
Sources: Orange County Register, OC Weekly, Palm Springs Desert Sun, The Patch
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