By Lauren Loricchio
Catonsville Times, Ellicott City, Md.
For Bettina Tebo, owner of Abbey Bail Bonds, running a bail bonding business is nothing like the way it is portrayed on television.
“The way that I run my business is customer service oriented,” Tebo said, seated near her dog, Abigayle, at her home office in Catonsville, “I’m here to help the families, because most of my clients have never been arrested before.”
Don’t expect to see Tebo chasing down criminals who skip town.
“I make a good risk assessment before writing bail,” Tebo said. “If the [defendant] can’t pay, I make sure their parents can sign for them.”
Tebo, 49, recently became president of the Arbutus Business and Professional Association. In her new role, she wants to “create synergy” between the different community groups in Arbutus, combining the resources of organizations such as the Halethorpe Improvement Association, the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department, the Arbutus Community Association, the Arbutus and Lansdowne-Baltimore Highlands senior centers and schools.
“We could be more collective in our efforts,” Tebo said. “There is power in numbers.”
She replaces Arbutus lawyer Terry Nolan, who has served as president multiple times since 2005.
“She owns her own business and she’s a goal-oriented, hard-charging woman,” Nolan said. “She’ll be great for Arbutus.”
Tebo has been an entrepreneur since 1991, when her daughter was born.
“I didn’t want to work for anyone else,” said Tebo, who has owned an interior landscaping firm, a flower shop on Wilkens Avenue called Bettina’s Flower Boutique and worked as a contractor for a medical examiner. “I’ve done a little bit of everything.”
She entered the bail bonds business in 2008 after selling her flower shop.
“I had back problems and needed to do something that wasn’t physically taxing,” Tebo said.
Her husband of 24 years, Joe Tebo, began surfing the Internet and found a bail bonding business for sale.
“We decided to buy the business,” Tebo said.
The leap from flower boutique owner to a bail bonding agent wasn’t difficult, Tebo said.
“You don’t realize it at the time, but one thing prepares you for another thing,” Tebo said. “There are so many similarities.”
Tebo said she learned to how to assist people dealing with difficult situations, like the death of a family member, while preparing their flowers for funerals.
“They were in duress and they had to make decisions and choices,” Tebo said. “It’s not that different from the bail bond business.”
When a person is arrested for a crime, they can be released from jail for money, which the court holds until the proceedings are complete, Tebo explained. The money is used as a guarantee that the person will not leave the jurisdiction, similar to an insurance policy, Tebo said.
A bail bondsman will post bail for their client, for a fee that totals 10 percent of the bail amount, if the bail amount is set to more than what a person can afford to pay.
“We don’t have to collect the 10 percent up front. We can collect it in a payment plan over time,” Tebo said.
If the person doesn’t show up to court, then a bail bondsmen is held responsible for paying the court the full bail amount, Tebo said.
As far as learning the bond process, Tebo said, “you pick it up as you go.”
Tebo said it isn’t difficult to learn the business, but, she said, there is a need be familiar with procedures that may vary by county.
“I serve all of Maryland and most of the country,” said Tebo, who has posted bail for Maryland residents who get arrested in other states.
She also learned to help people in stressful situations as a member of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department, where she currently serves as business liaison between the department and the ABPA.
Tebo joined the fire department 28 years ago and is a lifetime member.
Capt. Doug Simpkins, commander of AVFD, said he sees Tebo’s new role as an opportunity to enhance the fire department’s role in the community.
Tebo said she also wants to begin coordinating events with other nearby business groups. She said the ABPA, the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce and the Lansdowne Business Association will hold a networking event at the fire department in the spring.
“It’s going to open doors for our members,” Simpkins said.
Tebo said that although she loves the small town of Arbutus, it has some issues she’d like to see improved, such as the upkeep of some businesses along East Drive.
“There are some businesses who don’t take care of their properties,” Tebo said.
But Tebo said there is exciting new development under way in the community, such as the Oak Creek Cafe restaurant opened by Jim and Sharon Andrews, who also own Ship’s Cafe in Catonsville.
“When they came to Arbutus, that put a twinkle in my eye,” Tebo said. “They were the first restaurant in Catonsville on restaurant row — them coming to Arbutus is going to be a benefit.”
Tebo said anything she does as president of the ABPA will be a collaborative effort.
“We’re a team; we work together,” Tebo said.