Jonathan Vargas-Fuentes pleads guilty, avoids prison

Video surveillance shows the March 15 incident. (Photo courtesy screen grab of video provided by the Montgomery County court)

GAITHERSBURG. Md. (WJLA) -- An unlicensed bounty hunter who authorities say posed as a federal agent pleaded guilty Thursday but is avoiding prison.

Back in March, Jonathan Vargas-Fuentes and his partner chased a man wanted on a marijuana warrant into a parking lot at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg.

Vargas-Fuentes, 28, was initially charged with first-degree assault and first-degree dangerous weapon possession on school property.

On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and second-degree dangerous weapon possession.

A judge sentenced him to three years on both counts to run concurrently, but ended up suspending the sentences.

When asked he if thinks he crossed the line at all, Vargas replied: “No comment. Talk to my attorney."

His partner, Clemente Balsera, pleaded guilty last week.

Authorities say he and a partner were working as bail bondsmen on March 15 when they tried to apprehend the man.

Vargas and his partner were chasing after a vehicle, and at one point, one of the bounty hunters pulled out what looked like a weapon and pointed it.

A school bus carrying special-needs students was in the area at the time, and one student saw the weapon before both cars sped away.

Police stopped Vargas-Fuentes’ unmarked Ford Taurus. Inside, they found ski masks, a Taser, pellet gun, police radio, and the two bounty hunters – dressed heat-to-toe in SWAT team regalia.

Police detained Vargas-Fuentes and Balsera and found that neither man had current bail bondsmen licenses.

Quince Orchard senior Hunter O’Connor remembers the school lockdown that followed.

"At the time it was pretty scary, obviously no one wants a shooter at their school," he said.

"I don't think anybody with weapons should go near a school -- especially when you're running like that," said concerned parent Syeda Andrabi.

This public outrage propelled criminal charges.

"The take-away from this is that when you pursue individuals that have failed to appear in court, make sure you do it in an area that is safe for the public at large, at areas of risk and on school grounds," explained Ramon Korionoff with the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office.

And in Vargas-Fuentes' defense, his attorney John Pikulski had this to say:

"He's certainly tried to make himself more aware of the schools in the area that he's in. And I think if he had to do it again, he wouldn't have followed that person into the school."