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Buckeye bail bondsman applies education, lacrosse experience to entrepreneurship

Ohio State alumnus Jonathan DeCanio, on right, with lacrosse teammate during his 2004-2007 career at OSU. DeCanio is now the owner of Affordable Bail Bonds. Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan DeCanio.

Ohio State alumnus Jonathan DeCanio, on right, with lacrosse teammate during his 2004-2007 career at OSU. DeCanio is now the owner of Affordable Bail Bonds. Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan DeCanio.

A man with arrest warrants for multiple felonies is out on bail, living on a 60-foot houseboat and traveling down the east coast of the United States.

He missed his court date, and appears to have no intention of stopping on his trip south.

The man has docked the boat in a harbor, where he is located and handcuffed by an Ohio State alumnus.

The alumnus is Jonathan DeCanio, a 2007 OSU graduate in communication with a focus in marketing who played lacrosse for the Buckeyes from 2004 to 2007.

Handcuffing criminals on the run is part of his job as owner of Affordable Bail Bonds, based in Virginia, that he started in 2010.

“That’s a very, very small side of our business,” DeCanio said. “When I do it, I’m not making any money, I’m chasing bad money.”

He said that although situations involving a pursuit happen regularly, they are never desired.

“You always have to think that something very bad could happen and you should be prepared,” DeCanio said.

DeCanio and his four team members wear bullet-proof vests when going into potentially high-risk situations, but he said that they do not carry firearms because bringing them into such a situation can negatively escalate it.

Just as there exists risks in pursuing and catching individuals, there also exists risks on the business side.

When DeCanio’s company provides a bail bond, they are responsible for paying it, if the person who was bailed out of jail does not show up to court.

“You’re gambling every single day on people you don’t really know,” DeCanio said. “Someone might write that bond not thinking of the consequences of them not coming to court and you losing $100,000.”

DeCanio started his own business after a stint working for another bail bond company, which he had read about in a magazine.

DeCanio said he wants to be able to show college students that it is possible to start their own businesses and be successful working for themselves. In this way, he is showing by example how people can follow their own passion.

“My main goal has always been to work for myself,” DeCanio said. “My success would be based on how hard I work and how bad I really want it.”

DeCanio said his hard work has drawn the interest of several creators of reality television shows.

He has been contacted by a company that creates films for television channels such as Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, as well as companies from overseas that were interested in filming reality shows with him, he said.

As of now, DeCanio has not accepted any offers.

“I didn’t want to lose focus on growing my business,” he said. “I don’t feel like having to explain a situation to the people that regulate us if something gets mixed up in a story.”

His business has locations in Virginia Beach and Fairfax, Virginia, and DeCanio said he has considered opening up a bail bond business in Columbus.

DeCanio, a 2007 OSU graduate and owner of Affordable Bail Bonds, escorts a handcuffed client to jail after she failed to appear for her court date. Courtesy of Jonathan DeCanio.

DeCanio, a 2007 OSU graduate and owner of Affordable Bail Bonds, escorts a handcuffed client to jail after she failed to appear for her court date. Courtesy of Jonathan DeCanio.

Legal restrictions also have an effect on his business, impeding his ability to pursue individuals in certain states, such as neighboring Kentucky. It is also illegal in Canada, and DeCanio said that he is not allowed to capture individuals in Mexico.

He said that traveling long distances to capture people can cause him to lose a lot of money, and if he knows where a person has traveled, he will contact local law enforcement or local bounty hunters and bondsmen.

Even so, people have traveled far while under DeCanio’s watch.

The first customer to which DeCanio wrote a bond moved to Turkey after being bailed out of jail.

“I have to make my decision very quick on if I’m gonna lend them the money and give them the bond,” DeCanio said.

That bond, $25,000, was the largest loss he has taken since starting his company.

“It was an expensive learning lesson and it happened,” he said.

Teamwork is also an important lesson learned by DeCanio, and he said that his focus on teamwork and on making sure each person knows their role on the team was instilled in him when he was on the OSU lacrosse team.

“When we need to back each other up, we take one for the team and help each other out,” DeCanio said.

DeCanio said he has seen a lot of companies come and go, but feels his business has enjoyed its longevity due to the team’s shared goals.

“I’m not retired from the military and doing this for extra income,” he said. “My goal is to grow a successful team and be able to last in this business.”

DeCanio said that although bail bond companies are difficult to franchise, there is an opportunity for a successful one in Columbus.

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