ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KMSP) - The actions of a St. Cloud, Minnesota-based bounty hunter are raising a lot of questions about regulations on the industry.
Shane Olson has a criminal history longer than most the people he’s bailing out of jail. Yet for years, he has strapped on a badge and played cop.
Up until recently, Olson was not only a bounty hunter, but a bail bond insurer. In other words, he not only solicited and posted bail, but he chased after those who missed court or didn’t comply with the terms of bail.
According to documents issued by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the state revoked Olson’s bail insurer’s license in April 2017 after officials discovered that he lied about his criminal history on his 2013 license application, and then again when he applied for renewal two years later.
Police reports obtained by Fox 9 show a history of stalking clients, disrespecting law enforcement officers and disorderly conduct in court buildings.
“This guy is all over the map in terms of which statutes he chooses to violate,” said St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson. “Most [bounty hunters] do it very well. Unfortunately, Mr. Olson doesn’t fit into that category.”
The St. Cloud Police Department is not the only agency to have frequent contact with Olson. On December 18, 2014, Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty sent a formal trespass notice to Olson notifying him that he was not allowed at the Wright County Law Enforcement Center due to “continued disruptive conduct.”
“He’s destroying relationships that were once very strong between bail, law enforcement and courts,” said Derek Nelson, president of the Minnesota Professional Bail Bond Association.
In one instance outlined in the Department of Commerce filing, a client claims Olson offered to forgive her bail in exchange for sex. The woman told police this happened 15 to 20 times, and when she refused he threatened to pull her bail. According to the Wright County attorney’s office, Olson took a plea deal on the charge.
Several complaints also point to a history of threatening clients through text message at all hours and barging into their homes unannounced. A few clients even say Olson stole from them, claiming they owe him money. In one complaint, he tells the client “Nope, I’m not the cops. They have rules, I don’t.”
While this history resulted in the revocation of his bail insurer’s license, there is nothing in Minnesota law that would keep him from bounty hunting.
“It’s totally unregulated, and it’s a huge loophole that leaves Minnesotans at risk,” said Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River).
Zerwas plans on introducing legislation in 2018 that would require bail enforcement agents, or bounty hunters, to undergo a background investigation and complete a training course.
“I think we need to make sure that if you’re going to be a bounty hunter that you’ve done more than order a tin badge off Amazon and watched a Dog the Bounty Hunter marathon," Zerwas said. "There has to be more involved."
Chief Anderson says he would fully support the legislation.
“Anything short of that, to me, is reckless,” said Anderson. “I don’t think it’s safe for anybody to be out there unregulated.”
Olson’s company, KSI Bail Bonds and Kick ‘em In Security, is still operating under his wife’s bail insurer’s license.
Olson’s attorney contends that Olson is complying with the state order and that most—if not all—the charges and complaints that have been filed against him are baseless.
“Yeah sure, maybe one or two incidents over a couple years may have occurred because somebody was mad or upset that you picked up their loved one, but when you have countless police report, after police report, after police report identifying and alleging the same exact behavior over and over and over again, how does that happen and you can deny it all,” said Nelson. “I mean, enough people tell you you have a tail—you have a tail.”
In an email statement to Fox 9, Olson’s attorney John Ellenbecker said:
Mr. Olson agreed to the license revocation after the conviction that occurred in Stearns County. That matter involved a dispute with a neighbor over a basketball hoop, and is now on appeal. It had nothing to do with KSI, bail bonds or any client of KSI. But the conviction did occur, so it was pointless to argue the matter with the Department of Commerce.
The harassment issues are a little more involved. When KSI Bail Bonds is asked to write a bond they make a determination as to the risk that the client presents. When they perceive that there is a risk that the client may not follow conditions imposed by court, they often ask the client to agree to daily contact in order for them to write the bail bond. The clients agree to this voluntarily as a part of the agreement they enter with KSI. KSI goes out of their way to assist clients in meeting their court imposed conditions, including providing transportation to court when the client can't find a ride, providing rides for random drug and alcohol tests, and making sure that the client has the funds to pay for those tests. They have also provided clients with phones if they don't have a phone to use to meet the court ordered conditions of release. When a client fails to maintain contact with the agency monitoring the client's pre-trial release, KSI staff will go to their residence to make contact in order to ensure that the client is still in compliance with court ordered conditions of release.
The incident that led to charges in Wright County was a client that KSI had provided with a cell phone so that she could meet the conditions of release placed upon her by the court (the client had an abusive boyfriend who had broken her phone). When KSI was notified that she hadn't maintained contact with Sherburne County, KSI staff went to her residence. She called the police. There were differing versions of what occurred. In order to resolve the matter Mr. Olson entered a guilty plea and received a Stay of Adjudication, meaning that no conviction has been entered and the matter will be dismissed when his probation is completed. We took a similar charge in Hennepin County to trial. Following the presentation of the evidence in that matter, Mr. Olson was found not guilty. Mr. Olson has not been found guilty of any disorderly conduct charges.
The vast majority of KSI clients appreciate the willingness of KSI staff, including Mr. Olson, to go out of their way to assist them in meeting court ordered conditions of release. Mr. Olson is currently complying with all conditions of the order with the Department of Commerce.