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The count: How much New Orleans bail bond companies overcharged defendants over 12 years

$5 million

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Source: Southern Poverty Law Center

Louisiana law allows bail bond companies to charge defendants up to 12 percent of a bond imposed by a judge. The companies then pay the full amount to the court if the defendant doesn't show up for trial. But, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center investigation, at least 21 bail bond companies charged 13 percent, totaling roughly $5 million in excess fees collected from nearly 50,000 people over 12 years.

  The SPLC filed a complaint with the Louisiana Department of Insurance listing those companies as well as their insurance underwriters and demanding the department fine the companies and suspend or revoke their operating licenses if they don't refund the premiums.

  "These companies have flouted state law and cheated tens of thousands of poor people and their families out of millions of dollars," said Micah West, staff attorney for the SPLC. "Such blatant financial abuse is particularly egregious when it's being carried out as part of the justice system and under the nose of the courts."

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