Bounty hunters plead guilty to bringing weapon to Quince Orchard High -- Gazette.Net


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This story was corrected at 11:55 a.m. on Aug. 30. An explanation follows the story.

Two bounty hunters arrested after being seen with a pellet gun and Taser in Quince Orchard High School’s parking lot in March agreed to plead guilty in the case.

Jonathan Vargas-Fuentes, 28, of Hyattsville pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree assault and bringing a dangerous weapon onto school property. His co-defendant, Clemente Balsera, 29, of Gaithersburg, pleaded guilty to the same charges on Aug. 22.

Both received a three-year suspended sentence for each of the two counts, with 18 months of supervised probation. Balsera served 59 days in jail and Vargas-Fuente served two days.

“We take the safety of our children and the security of our schools seriously. This is why we brought this case. While recovery agents, bounty hunters and bail bondsmen are a part of the Criminal Justice system, there are common sense boundaries and procedures they must follow. Apprehending a suspect in a dangerous manner on school property or around children is not the way to go about tracking down fugitive,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney spokesman Ramon Korionoff.

The men were hired as bounty hunters by bail bondsman Nick Pantazes of Upper Marlboro and on March 15 were said to be chasing a suspect in a pickup truck who had failed to appear in court for a marijuana charge, according to Korionoff. Attempts to get a comment from the Pantazes company were unsuccessful Friday.

According to charging documents, the bounty hunters, in a gold Taurus, started to chase driver Gabriel Tovar and Caitlin Wiggington, who was a passenger in Tovar’s pickup, near Black Road Road in Germantown.

The men followed the suspect into the Quince Orchard High School bus loop in the middle of buses and exiting students during dismissal time and tried to arrest him there, according to the charging documents. That’s where witnesses say they saw one of the bounty hunters get out of the car, stand behind the open passenger door and aim what looked like a handgun at the driver of the pickup truck, according to court records.

The suspect drove off and the bounty hunters followed, according to the court documents.

Montgomery County Police got the call about the incident about 2:11 p.m. and the high school was put in lockdown. Nearby Lakelands Park Middle School was on a shelter-in-place status and Rachel Carson Elementary School delayed its bus service.

Shortly thereafter, high school security officers pointed out the gold Taurus sitting at a red light on Quince Orchard Road at Route 28. Police stopped a car matching the description they had been given of the one seen at Quince Orchard High School.

Police said Balsera could be seen inside the car taking off a black ski mask. He was also wearing clothes that looked like a SWAT uniform, including a ballistic vest.

Inside the car, police found a loaded black Gamo CO2 pellet gun and a black Taser gun.

John Pikulski, an attorney for Balsera and Vargas-Fuentes, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to where the incident took place.