Civil rights lawyers in Washington say they are suing an East Baltimore bail bonds company, alleging 4 Aces Bail Bonds Inc. ran an unlicensed subsidiary that sought to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from local families.

The class-action lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court, the lawyers say, and it comes as the latest move by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to challenge the subsidiary called Baltimore’s Discount Bail Bonds.


“This lawsuit is about deterring shady actors who are attempting to use the state judicial system to collect on unlawful contracts,” said Veryl Pow, an attorney with the committee.

In a sweeping lawsuit that accuses the for-profit bail bonds industry of preying on vulnerable, low-income families, the lawyers wrote that Baltimore’s Discount Bail Bonds did not register or obtain a license to operate as required under state law.

In the months since Maryland's attorney general said the state's cash bail system violates the constitutional rights of the poor, judges and court commissioners have been requiring fewer criminal defendants to put up money for their freedom.

The lawsuit claims 4 Aces Bail Bonds operated the subsidiary Baltimore’s Discount Bail Bonds at 400 East Eager St. in the Johnston Square neighborhood of East Baltimore.

The owner of 4 Aces Bail Bonds, Milton Tillman Jr., did not immediately return a message Tuesday.

An attorney for the company, Neil Steinhorn, said Tuesday he had not yet been served with the lawsuit and could not respond to the allegations.

The lawsuit also claims the Maryland Insurance Administration issued a final order revoking the license of 4 Aces Bail Bonds in March. Steinhorn said the company was still able to collect on judgments recorded before March.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Alice Hughes, of Rosedale, and Rebekah Shirbach, of Hagerstown.

Maryland's top legal officer has concluded that the state's system of holding defendants in jail because they can't afford to pay cash bail would likely be found unconstitutional.

Hughes entered into a contract with Baltimore’s Discount Bail Bonds after her nephew was locked up. In the lawsuit, the lawyers say she didn’t know Baltimore’s Discount Bail Bonds was unlicensed. The company took her to court for more than $7,000 and has garnished $131 from each of her paychecks, the lawyers wrote.

Shirbach entered into a contract with Baltimore’s Discount Bail Bonds after her friend was locked up. The company later filed against her in court for more than $5,000, and it has garnished $137 from each of her paychecks, according to the lawsuit.

The lawyers are also suing Steinhorn, the debt collection firm Chesapeake Corporate Services Inc. in Baltimore and the surety insurance companies that underwrite the bail bonds, Crum & Forster Indemnity Company and Financial Casualty & Surety Inc. in Texas.

The companies have not filed a response to the lawsuit. The nonprofit lawyers have requested a jury trial.