CHESTER — A Rock Hill bail bondsman and business owner was arrested in Chester County last week after deputies say he solicited for business in a court building.
Ned Polk, 67, owner of Adams/Polk Bail Bonds and Polk Bail Bond School, was arrested Friday and charged with two counts of violating bail/bail bondsmen laws. He was released the same day on a personal recognizance bond.
State law prohibits bondsmen from soliciting business in or on the grounds of a court building. Violating that statute is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a $5,000 fee.
On July 8, James Neely, 55, told deputies he went to the Chester County Law Enforcement Complex to post bond for his daughter, Kristin Neely, after she had been charged with criminal domestic violence, said Sheriff’s Office Maj. Mary Anne Tolbert.
While waiting in the magistrate’s office lobby, Polk approached Neely and asked if he wanted him to handle his daughter’s bond, according to a sheriff’s report. Neely declined, saying he had his own money.
Neely told police that Polk carried cards with the names of and charges against recently arrested defendants. Kristin Neely’s name was on one of the cards, deputies said.
Neely later learned bond had not been set for his daughter. He returned to the jail the next day, the report states, to find that bond had still not been set.
Sometime later, Neely told deputies Polk walked out of a magistrate’s courtroom and handed him a receipt indicating that he owed Polk $500.
Polk had posted bond for Kristin Neely, her father told police, saying she would be out before “the sun goes down.”
Deputies say Neely felt pressured into using a bondsman after walking into the magistrate’s office and being approached “off the bat” by Polk, who continuously “hounded” him, the report states.
The exchange between Polk and Neely was captured on video, Tolbert said.
“There are two sides to every story,” Polk said when reached by The Herald on Tuesday, calling the charges against him false.
He declined to comment further, since the case is pending and likely won’t be resolved for some time.
Court records indicate this is Polk’s first criminal charge.
Most bondsmen know that soliciting in a jail or courthouse is illegal, said Ricky Hill, vice president of the S.C. Bail Agents Association.
“That is stressed; that is probably one of the most stressed parts of the laws for bail bondsmen,” Hill said. “We have problems statewide, of bondsmen going in and soliciting at the jails at the courthouse.
“Every bondsman, when you go through the (licensing) class, you know that’s number one, you do not do that.”
Soliciting at courthouses might give some bondsmen an advantage, he said.
“Some bondsmen will hang out at the jails or hang out at the courthouse because that’s the only way of advertising,” he said, adding that the bail bonding business is “very competitive”
Defendants pay a bail bondsman a nonrefundable 10 percent of the bond amount before their release from jail.
“Everyone is looking for that edge of doing something different than that other person,” Hill said. “There’s a fine line between solicitation and advertising.”
Giving a card to someone who asks is considered advertising, he said. Initiating conversation about the business is soliciting.
“It’s best to walk outside on the sidewalk and talk your business there,” he said.
The state Department of Insurance regulates bail bondsmen and would be responsible for determining any possible penalties or changes to Polk’s licensing, Hill said. Efforts to reach the Insurance Department were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Polk has been a licensed bondsman since 1984. From 1970 to 2003, he owned Polk Property Management and once owned two bail bonding companies in North Carolina.
He owns Polk Insurance on North Avenue and is CEO of Rock Hill’s ICU Alcohol/Electronic/Satellite Monitoring Service.
Jonathan McFadden • 803-329-4082