by Tiffany Veh
The case of a family accused of assaulting a repossession agent and taking his dollies resumed on Friday. On May 11, 2013, a repo man banged on the West Sacramento door of Guillermo and Sandra Bonilla, a home shared with Mr. Bonilla’s brother Juan Bonilla. What started out as a simple attempt at repossession resulted in a several hour struggle, where the family was ultimately able to get their vehicle back and clear up the matter, but six months later they were arrested and charged with numerous crimes including second degree robbery, grand theft and battery. (For more background on the case, see previous article).
Witness testimony continued Friday afternoon. The repo man resumed his testimony. He was questioned about the weight of the dollies and the reason why repossession agencies did not need to show collection documentation and ID to the person whose vehicle is being repossessed.
The repo man answered that privacy considerations are involved; personal information is in the documentation and that repo men are not required to provide documentation to people. He testified that the truck has four cameras – on the rear, left, forward, and straight out (passenger side).
Michael Pratt, the owner of Absolute Adjustment, the repossession agency involved in the case, was next to testify. Registration numbers (RAs) are required to be on both sides of the truck. However, the name of the company, phone number, and other personal information are not required for a repossession vehicle.
He also cited privacy concerns when asked why they are not required to show ID when repossessing a truck. He stated that his duty as a business owner was to verify that the people live at the address and to verify their phone number and other such information before repossessing a vehicle.
Mr. Pratt described the damage to his truck as cracked, with a boom not closing all the way, a hairline crack, and a bent claw around the tire of the trunk. He paid $1029.59 to have his truck repaired and never got his two dollies back (estimated at $1572). Two straps on the truck were cut and shredded and two others were missing when the truck was recovered. The cost of the straps was $90 for 4 straps and $39 for 2 ratchets.
Mr. Pratt hadn’t made an insurance claim for the dollies. He did send a demand letter to the Bonilla family to get the straps and dollies back. Mr. Pratt also verified that only RA numbers were required to be posted on the two sides of the repo truck, nothing else.
A couple of employees from Travis Credit Union were called to testify. Paola Kilkenny is a senior collector and had some conversations with Sandra Bonilla. Ms. Bonilla had stated that it was Chase’s problem that the check was returned. She stated that she was not going to let the vehicle be taken, which was unusual, said Ms. Kilkenny.
Both accounts, savings and checking, were negative. Tracy Collies, senior collector, also had some contact with Ms. Bonilla. Her impression was that Ms. Bonilla’s story continued to change. First, she was out of town, then the repo man assaulted her husband, then she drove her vehicle and she didn’t know it was a repossession, and then finally, she knew it was a repossession. To Ms. Collies’s knowledge, after all this occurred, the vehicle was not repossessed. After the repo, sufficient funds were not transferred to cover the check. A payment was made but not enough was put in.
Former Officer Steve Godden was on duty with Detective Kenneth Fellows on the day of the repo event, 5/11/13. The neighbors did not want to get involved in the situation and Officer Godden did not ask their names.
The repo man wanted his dollies back. The garage door was closed and there were no dollies outside the garage. That day, the two officers knocked several times on the Bonilla family’s door and announced their presence, but no one answered the door.
Officer Godden never spoke with Ms. Bonilla. Detective Kenneth Fellows was the first one on the scene. The neighbors of the Bonilla family were outside, and told him told they had heard a loud commotion so they came outside and saw a truck outside. After knocking two or three times with Officer Godden, they returned to a couple blocks away, where the repo man was.
Officer Godden was speaking with the repo man, taking his statement and reviewing video. Everyone left at 9:30 or 9:45am. Officer Godden fielded calls with Sandra Bonilla. Detective Fellows was assigned this case. He reviewed the reports and looked at the video.
On May 20, he made contact with Mr. Pratt and then left a message for Mr. Thomas. He obtained video on a flash drive with footage from all four camera angles from the repo truck. On May 28, Detective Fellows contacted the Bonillas, around 3pm. He was with another detective at the time.
He knocked on the door,and Ms. Bonilla answered. Detective Fellows stated that he wanted to obtain statements from her husband, brother-in-law, and her. She stated that she had a lawyer. He made it clear that she is not under arrest.
Ms. Bonilla stated that she’s aware of the repo situation, the repo agent identified himself, she drove the vehicle off the truck, her husband Guillermo was assaulted, and that Juan Carlos (J.C.) is her brother-in-law.
She said it was a mistake and that she was sure that she is current on her payments. The detective gave Ms. Bonilla his name and phone number and to have them give him a call back. She claimed she has pictures of her husband Guillermo’s assault. Detective Fellows recorded the exchange on his audio portable recorder. Then, around two months later, he went back to the residence.
Detective Fellows said that he talked on the phone to “Valentine.” Ms. Bonilla had given him the number to call. Valentine stated that the repo man had not shown documents and had assaulted his brother, Guillermo, with a headlock. Valentine pushed the repo man away to break up the altercation.
Detective Fellows said he thought he was talking to J.C. (Guillermo’s brother) when he was talking to the person named Valentine. Valentine said that the vehicle was not jacked up and that the straps were not around its tires. He continued, saying the repo agent was not professional. Detective Fellows said he did not know at the time that he was speaking to Guillermo himself and that he therefore felt that the defendant was being deceptive.
The trial continues on Monday, May 4 at 9:15am in Department 6.