An Interview with Scott MacLean
R.E. “Scott” MacLean III is a licensed Private Investigator, Professional Property Bondsman and Contract Federal Investigator. Through his businesses, Chesapeake Bail Bonds and Chesapeake Group Investigations, Scott has been in the bail profession since the late 1980s and is a founding member of www.nabbi.org, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the education and promotion of the fugitive recovery industry. Scott is an educator and public speaker on bail and the fugitive recovery profession with a passion for mentoring disadvantaged youth.
We would like to thank Scott for taking the time to share the knowledge he has gained through years of experience in the fugitive recovery business.
Many people are not aware of the bail business and how it works- can you elaborate on how you became involved as a bounty hunter?
The bail business in the US is an extension of Old English Common Law, utilized to promise body on body. This means that in order to free a friend or relative while awaiting their adjudication, the Indemnitor would promise to stand trial and take the punishment of the defendant, should they fail to appear for their scheduled trial.
In the US, there are many ways to be released from jail prior to your trial. These ways include posting a surety bond with a bondsman, paying 10% of the bond to the court, unsecured personal bond, also known as a signature bond, posting personal property to the court, usually real estate, or being released on personal recognizance, commonly called ROR.
My entry into the field of fugitive recovery began when my career in repossessing tractor trailers drastically changed, as a direct result of an improving economy. I found people in order to find their trucks and doing fugitive recovery allowed me to just find the people.
How has the profession changed since you first became involved?
When I got involved with fugitive recovery, there was no Facebook or databases of information available to me. We knocked on a lot of doors, talked to a bunch of people, pulled a lot of trash, and I hired Carmen Shea, a Private Investigator known as the Gumshoe Granny. Nowadays, you have to be very adept at social media and properly credentialed to have access to databases we used to hire Private Investigators for. In my considered opinion, the best investigators possess both old school and new school skill sets.
This business used to be considered a closed business, meaning it was extremely difficult to get any information on the career field, let alone to operate within the profession. Now there are television shows that tell fugitives how we do our jobs, and therefore how to continue to evade capture. When this business was more covert, we stayed under the radar, out of the news and everybody was happy. Now, not so much.
As you look at your career can you name one case that stands out as one that drew upon all of your skills and experience? Please elaborate.
There are many cases that caused me to reach deep into my bag of tricks, or to confer with trusted professionals like Bill Williams, Bill Marx Sr., Chuck Jordan, Joe Stiles, Gene Lacy, and many, many more. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees and you need to turn to somebody else who can keep you grounded and focused, in order to get the job done.
Bringing a child molester home from Vietnam, with the help of the FBI, and Rod Mistead, then watching him get sentenced to 11 years, has to be one of them. Closing down an international drug ring based in Missouri City, TX with Carmen Shea, in coordination with the DEA, is also high on the list. That case included multiple briefings of the DEA in secured locations.
What skills or educational experiences would you advise someone who wants to become a bounty hunter to acquire?
Go to college and get a degree in Criminal Justice or Cyber Security. Understand that your learning never stops in this profession, and when you think that you know it all, you will be humbled quickly. Find a mentor and check their bonafides. Not every Facebook bounty hunter is as successful or experienced as they would like you to think. Choose your friends wisely and never let anyone else know what you do for a living, as this is a very small world. Lastly, don’t give up your day job.
Whatever job you have to support your family, let fugitive recovery be your second income. This is harder than it seems. The first time you close out a $50K skip and get paid, you won’t want to return to your regular job ever again. In this business, you will have hot streaks where you can do no wrong, followed closely by weeks when you couldn’t find a Dixie Cup if it were duct taped to your left toe.
What are two or three of the biggest challenges that a new bounty hunter would face when entering the field?
The biggest problem facing current fugitive recovery agents is the criminal justice system that is changing from a crime/punishment model to a due process model. This is often referred to as the liberalization of the judiciary, where the victim is all but forgotten and the criminal is the new victim. This has also been exacerbated by the push for alternate methods of release, replacing surety bail. The cumulative effect is that fewer people are being placed on surety bail, and the bondsman has to work more diligently to properly underwrite the bonds they do get. Less bonds equals less skips, and less work for potential fugitive recovery agents.
If you could do anything differently in building your career, what different turns would you take, if any?
I would have gone into law enforcement first and gone into bail after retiring. I would now have a retirement income, free training from law enforcement that I could apply to fugitive recovery, and 20 years of developed contacts that I could use as a force multiplier towards my success and goals. I would also have obtained a college degree as a youth instead of as an adult, where the increased income for college graduates could have affected my entire career, not just the twilight.
In your view, what are the three most important and positive benefits of being a bounty hunter?
Being involved in the bail system has allowed me a window into other people’s issues that I would not have had otherwise. This has resulted in compassion for others and a desire to be a leader and example others can look up to as well as affording me the opportunity to help others.
In your view, what is the biggest challenge in being a bounty hunter?
Inconsistencies in available work, such that one could stay busy in this profession. Secondly, is that we are no longer a sub rosa profession. Thirdly would be what you learn about people, to include criminals, their families and potential partners that you wish you never knew.
Is there any further advice you would share with students considering bounty hunter as a career?
If someone is interested in this profession, I would pursue a criminal justice degree, and pursue any of the many jobs in the criminal justice system, to include but not limited to: Parole and Probation, Corrections, Social Services and sworn Law Enforcement.