For Bettina Tebo, owner of Abbey Bail Bonds, running a bail bonding business is nothing like the way it is portrayed on television.

“The way that I run my business is customer service oriented,” Tebo said, seated near her dog, Abigayle, at her home office in Catonsville, “I’m here to help the families, because most of my clients have never been arrested before.”
Don’t expect to see Tebo chasing down criminals who skip town.

“I make a good risk assessment before writing bail,” Tebo said. “If the [defendant] can’t pay, I make sure their parents can sign for them.”

Tebo, 49, recently became president of the Arbutus Business and Professional Association. In her new role, she wants to “create synergy” between the different community groups in Arbutus, combining the resources of organizations such as the Halethorpe Improvement Association, the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department, the Arbutus Community Association, the Arbutus and Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands senior centers and schools.

“We could be more collective in our efforts,” Tebo said. “There is power in numbers.”

She replaces Arbutus lawyer Terry Nolan, who has served as president multiple times since 2005.

“She owns her own business and she’s a goal-oriented, hard-charging woman,” Nolan said. “She’ll be great for Arbutus.”
Tebo has been an entrepreneur since 1991, when her daughter was born.

“I didn’t want to work for anyone else,” said Tebo, who has owned an interior landscaping firm, a flower shop on Wilkens Avenue called Bettina’s Flower Boutique and worked as a contractor for a medical examiner. “I’ve done a little bit of everything.”

She entered the bail bonds business in 2008 after selling her flower shop.

“I had back problems and needed to do something that wasn’t physically taxing,” Tebo said.

Her husband of 24 years, Joe Tebo, began surfing the Internet and found a bail bonding business for sale.
“We decided to buy the business,” Tebo said.

The leap from flower boutique owner to a bail bonding agent wasn’t difficult, Tebo said.

“You don’t realize it at the time, but one thing prepares you for another thing,” Tebo said. “There are so many similarities.”
Tebo said she learned to how to assist people dealing with difficult situations, like the death of a family member, while preparing their flowers for funerals.

“They were in duress and they had to make decisions and choices,” Tebo said. “It’s not that different from the bail bond business.”

When a person is arrested for a crime, they can be released from jail for money, which the court holds until the proceedings are complete, Tebo explained. The money is used as a guarantee that the person will not leave the jurisdiction, similar to an insurance policy, Tebo said.

A bail bondsman will post bail for their client, for a fee that totals 10 percent of the bail amount, if the bail amount is set to more than what a person can afford to pay.

“We don’t have to collect the 10 percent up front. We can collect it in a payment plan over time,” Tebo said.
If the person doesn’t show up to court, then a bail bondsmen is held responsible for paying the court the full bail amount, Tebo said.

As far as learning the bond process, Tebo said, “you pick it up as you go.”
Tebo said it isn’t difficult to learn the business, but, she said, there is a need be familiar with procedures that may vary by county.

“I serve all of Maryland and most of the country,” said Tebo, who has posted bail for Maryland residents who get arrested in other states.

She also learned to help people in stressful situations as a member of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department, where she currently serves as business liaison between the department and the ABPA.

Tebo joined the fire department 28 years ago and is a lifetime member.

Capt. Doug Simpkins, commander of AVFD, said he sees Tebo’s new role as an opportunity to enhance the fire department’s role in the community.

Tebo said she also wants to begin coordinating events with other nearby business groups. She said the ABPA, the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce and the Lansdowne Business Association will hold a networking event at the fire department in the spring.

“It’s going to open doors for our members,” Simpkins said.

Tebo said that although she loves the small town of Arbutus, it has some issues she’d like to see improved, such as the upkeep of some businesses along East Drive.

“There are some businesses who don’t take care of their properties,” Tebo said.

But Tebo said there is exciting new development under way in the community, such as the Oak Creek Cafe restaurant opened by Jim and Sharon Andrews, who also own Ship’s Cafe in Catonsville.

“When they came to Arbutus, that put a twinkle in my eye,” Tebo said. “They were the first restaurant in Catonsville on restaurant row — them coming to Arbutus is going to be a benefit.”

Tebo said anything she does as president of the ABPA will be a collaborative effort.

“We’re a team; we work together,” Tebo said.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun

Letter to the editor: Bail in Maryland

By: Daily Record Staff April 3, 2014

The Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision in a case stating indigent persons are being denied their due process rights after being arrested by not having an attorney present at their initial appearance before a court commissioner. The court’s ruling will end initial appearances before court commissioners.

The current process in Maryland is as follows: A person is arrested. He or she is taken and processed through a police station or at a central booking facility. He is brought before a court commissioner. The commissioner then determines whether a defendant should be released and what conditions should accompany any release, advises him of the charges and the right to counsel. The accused’s prior record, seriousness of the offense, probable cause, flight risk, community/ family ties, employment status, financial resources, reputation and character are considered. If the accused is not released by the commissioner, he or she will be detained and have bail reviewed by a judge on the next day of session for the court. A public defender will be provided to persons who qualify at the bail review.

Although some of the legislators in Annapolis are not happy with this “legislation from the bench,” they have introduced several bills to appease the court’s decision and alter the initial bail hearing. House Bill 1186 would require commissioners to release people on their own recognizance if they have never failed to appear in court and are being charged with a crime punishable by less than one year in prison. All others would be automatically detained “without unnecessary delay” and wait for a hearing before a judge so as to have an attorney present. The judge would then decide if the defendant will be released, needs a bond or will be held for trial. Another proposal would require the commissioners to follow a risk assessment tool to decide the fate of the defendants. If the risk assessment tool is chosen, does it becomes the state’s responsibility to make sure the defendant appears in court?

Many victims are upset when an accused perpetrator is released on bail. The current system of the bail hearing is supposed to guarantee that victims will have their day in court and that accused offenders will stand trial. If a surety bail bond has been posted, chances are the defendant will be in court. If the defendant does not show up, the bail bonding company will produce the defendant or have to pay the full bail amount. If the system changes to a pretrial risk assessment, eliminating the commissioner and bail, then it will be the responsibility of the state to produce the defendant.

Bail bonding companies provide a valuable service to the state and victims of crime at no cost to the taxpayer. The state does not pay bail bonding companies. Bail bond companies charge a 10 percent fee mandated by law. These days, bail bonds are easy to come by. There is a lot of competition and companies have become creative with offering very low down payments and affordable payment plans.

As of Feb. 5, Washington County, with an estimated population of 145,000, has 2,504 unserved warrants, according to the Herald Mail. With an estimated population of 4.5 million people in the state of Maryland, how many warrants would go unserved? How many victims would not have their day in court?

The estimated cost of complying with the court’s ruling will cost the state of Maryland from $17 million to over $30 million. That will hurt us taxpayers, too.

Bettina M. Tebo
Bettina M. Tebo is the owner of Abbey Bail Bonds.