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NY Department of State: Armed bounty hunters from Buffalo raid not licensed in NYS

Posted at 7:48 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 20:41:05-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The New York Department of State tells 7 Eyewitness News the armed bounty hunters who raided a home in Buffalo’s Seneca Babcock neighborhood are not licensed in New York State and could face penalties for what they did.

The Department of State regulates bounty hunters and licensing and says “Bail Bonds LLC, located in Lebanon, PA is not licensed in New York State as either a Private Investigator or a Bail Enforcement Agent.”

The statement goes on to say,The Department of State has no jurisdiction over unlicensed activities. Criminal action for a violation relating to unlicensed activity is enforced by the Office of the Attorney General or the local district attorney per Section 85 of the General Business Law. A violation of the licensing law is punishable as a class B misdemeanor. DOS is referring the matter to the AG.”

A Bounty Hunter from Arizona, who has been in the business for more than 15 years says he was “embarrassed” to watch the way out of state bounty hunters conducted business here in Buffalo during a January midnight raid.

“It was completely embarrassing to watch.”

Kenny Painton owns Eagle Eye Recovery in Phoenix. He says he saw our story regarding the raid at Jake Reinhardt’s home on Oakdale Place in Buffalo, where out of state bounty hunters were caught on home surveillance video pointing long guns at Reinhardt, when they were looking for his brother.

“We are not police,” he said. “We can’t just go pointing firearms at anyone. They’re not involved. They’re not the defendant. They had their rifles without a sling. If the situation would have gone bad, they would have had no choice but to use their rifles,” he said of the video.

Even when Painton does recover a fugitive, he says he uses non-lethal force.

“We may have a taser or pepper spray, but you never start with a firearm,” he said. “If you have that firearm out, that’s your only resort.”

He said the way this raid was conducted was highly inappropriate.

Painton says he doesn’t want bounty hunters to get a bad name. He says they’re often key in helping assist law enforcement taking criminals off the streets. But, he says it should have never come to a situation like this.

Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen agrees.

“People shouldn’t just be able to go into individual’s homes,” he said during the Buffalo Common Council Tuesday meeting.

Pridgen is trying to get some information written up regarding bail bondsman and their rights. Right now, the Common Council says there is no city policy or police police related to bounty hunters. They’re regulated by New York State.

Reinhardt’s attorney believes many New York State laws were broken during this raid, including the unlawful entry to the home and several firearms laws.

The case will soon play out in federal court, as Reinhardt is suing for civil rights violations.

Buffalo Police were criticized for their role in providing watch while the bounty hunters entered the home.

According to the Department of State, it is not out of the ordinary for a bounty hunter to notify law enforcement.

"Prior to taking or attempting to take into custody a person, a bail enforcement agent shall notify a local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the area in which the person is believed to be located of such bail enforcement agent's intentions. The notification shall be provided on a form prescribed by the local law enforcement agency. Notwithstanding, the form shall include information including but not limited to name, address, local address and motor vehicle registration of said agent. The local law enforcement agency in prescribing such form may consult with the division of criminal justice services. A representative of a local law enforcement agency may accompany a bail enforcement agent when the bail enforcement agent enters what is believed to be an occupied structure to search for or to apprehend a person."

The Erie County District Attorney’s Office is still investigating the case.