A Wake County bail bondsman accused of being part of a scheme to alter court records to save bondsmen hundreds of thousands of dollars over a five-year period will spend six months in prison.
James L. Perkins, who owned A Plus Perkins Bail Bonding in Knightdale, pleaded guilty in Wake County Superior Court on Monday to one count of wrongfully accessing a government computer, one count of altering court records and a misdemeanor bail bond violation.
Perkins apologized in the hearing presided over by Judge Howard Manning, acknowledging that he used poor judgment when he asked to get in on a scheme that resulted in the loss of more than $1.5 million for the Wake County schools.
Perkins, in addition to his active prison sentence, was ordered to pay back almost $70,000 that he would have had to forfeit as a bail bondsman after his clients failed to show up for court.
Last year, the Wake County clerk’s office was tipped off about problems with the bond records, and Lorrin Freeman, the county’s clerk of court, immediately alerted law enforcement officers.
The State Bureau of Investigation began looking into the matter, and criminal charges eventually were brought against four people.
Assistant District Attorney David Saacks described the scheme to Manning in a hearing that lasted almost half an hour.
Investigators contend that Perkins and another bail bondsman worked with two former Wake County clerks to alter records that would save the bondsmen hundreds of thousands of dollars over five years.
People who are arrested or jailed often have to post a bail bond to get out of jail before their trial. Bail can range from hundreds to thousands to, occasionally, millions of dollars. With many people unable to post the bail themselves, bondsmen can bail a defendant out of jail for a nonrefundable fee. If the accused does not show up for court and has no legitimate reason for missing a hearing or trial, the bondsman forfeits the full bail amount.
Under North Carolina law, the money accrued from bond forfeitures is to go to the public schools in the court’s jurisdiction.
In the criminal cases, Wake County school officials have estimated a loss of almost $1 million. The schools have pursued civil action to recoup the bulk of the money.
The SBI inquiry exposed irregularities in at least 300 cases.
Prosecutors contend that the accused bondsmen worked with two clerks to alter court records intentionally from Dec. 19, 2011, to May 8, 2013.
In May, Latoya Barnes, a clerk who quit her job abruptly last summer, pleaded guilty to intentionally falsifying court records in 12 cases.
In exchange for help in getting her son out of the Johnston County jail, Barnes changed records to show that $27,400 in bonds had been paid when that was not the case.
Barnes, as part of a plea arrangement, received two years of probation but no active jail time.
Perkins sought probation and no active jail time, too.
But Saacks argued for a prison sentence, saying the scheme had violated the public’s trust in the court system and a message should be sent that such actions would not be tolerated.
Manning did not explain his reasons for the active sentence.