Some fathers and sons bond over a few beers and lures. Some like to catch a good old-fashioned ballgame. For one father-son duo, Dennis and Matt Fisher, in South Burlington, Vermont, family ties are forged by tracking down criminals.
But not everybody is on board with the Fisher clan and their shingle Lost “N” Found fugitive recovery agency.
Recently, U.S. Marshals linked a known felon to a string of burglaries in Vermont. The thieves struck in Burlington, South Burlington, and nearby Winooski, where they pulled well over $1,000 in cash from convenience stores and lifted wads of valuable state car inspection stickers from numerous gas stations.
But in their pursuit of one of the suspects they found they had to wait in line. The federal agents were forced to go through the dad-and-son bounty hunter shop run by ex-cop Dennis Fisher and his sidekick, skiptracing son Matt.
One of the Fishers’ top cases is to bring the pair of cat burglars to justice, and Dennis Fisher claims he has the gotcha goods. “I know where they are right now.”
The Marshals want that intel but Fisher isn’t bartering. “The Marshals want to know who my confidential informant is,” he said. “But once I bring them in I will receive a reward from the stores that were broken into and ultimately help to solve the crime.”
The reward alone is worth it to play possum. “For me to just tell them where they are is not a good move,” he added. “Everybody wants our information and I’m not just giving it away. Christ, let’s get a grip here.”
The Lost “N” Found fugitive recovery agency is going it alone to bring the crooks into custody and collect a handsome reward. “I’m getting together with my staff to move ahead,” Fisher said.
That meeting would be attended by Fisher and a staff of two.
Before he put on the bounty hunter hat, Fisher was a part-time cop at Montpelier Police Department in Vermont from 1973 to 1979, The Daily Beast confirmed, and then hopscotched from private eye to personal bodyguard to musical superstars like George Thurgood, Reba McEntire, and the Judd sisters. “I was their personal guard, so there are all kinds of photos of us together,” he said.
First in line to the throne is his son, Matt Fisher, 31, a former high school football star who keeps a day job as a painter between busting fugitives with his pops. “He was in his own little world when he was a football player, which made him an idol, and he thought could do no wrong,” Fisher said.
Off the gridiron the teenage Matt was often on the opposite side of the law. “I called in a lot of cop favors when he was younger,” Fisher said. “He was always getting into shit. Speeding, fights with his girlfriend—just stupid shit.”
The riffraff out of his system, Matt has grown up.
And dad was there when his youngest bagged his first fugitive. It was last December and a California drug dealer skipped bail. Fisher took the job but gave the collar to his kid.
“It took me almost three months to track the son of a bitch down,” Fisher said, laughing. “They thought it would be easy. Yeah right. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find somebody in Vermont?”
Like a good father, Fisher made sure to have a bounty hunter bonding chat. “Matt got the guy getting off the bus in Burlington,” he said. “He and I talked about it and I said, ‘Look, Matt, here’s the way this has to go down; I want you to do the heavy lifting. I’m not going to chase these guys.’”
Matt was confident he could handle the arrest. “‘I can handcuff him,’ he told me,” Fisher said. “The guy wasn’t a real big guy so Matt took the handcuffs and put them on in front of him. I didn’t have problem with that,” he said. Arrested criminals are usually cuffed behind the back as an extra form of precaution.
But when the dad and son arrived at the Vermont State Police barracks to deliver the drug dealer he told Matt the cuffs would have to go behind the perp. “Now you gotta switch it,” his dad told him.
It’s these tender moments where Fisher is hoping become the norm for he and his son.
And then there’s Colby, the other bounty hunting apprentice. He’s a bookworm, a gamer, and caught Fisher’s eye while raking leaves and washing dishes as a form of community service for the Salvation Army.
But Dennis Fisher, who was his supervisor at the time, saw a crook capturer in the errand boy and brought him into the bounty hunter fold. “I liked the kid and when he was done with the mundane duties he would go find something else to do,” Fisher said. “He was down there for bullshit stuff anyway… We all have to start somewhere.”
All it took to become a Lost “N” Found member was for Fisher to go online and buy him and his son a badge and laminated an identification card. Voila. They were minted bounty hunters.
“I got a free pass because I used to be a cop and a private detective for so many years,” Fisher said. As for his subordinates? “Any training that they get they get from me.”
It was his new recruit Colby who brought in the burglary job and made good with a confidential informant that soon set team Lost “N” Found off to track them down. “He did that all by his onesies,” Fisher said about Colby, who talked up a mechanic while he was having his car tuned. “Now we have really good video of these guys breaking into these places,” he added.
Colby is also helping the boss get around. Since Fisher is currently car-less he has to carpool with Colby to do any kind of reconnaissance.
And he’s trying to work with his new recruit on tactics and police tact. “I am forced to groom him a little bit because he didn’t have a lot of respect for cops,” Fisher said.
Fisher claims he’s another civilian who still bleeds blue. “I can talk cop,” he said. “When we visit a town we go to the local police department, I explain why we’re there and the key thing I say is, ‘If you got something going on you need to tell me.’”
The agency also uses Fisher’s granddaughter, a wiz on computers, when they need to run background checks. “She’s going to make us a pretty good Velda some day,” Dennis Fisher said, toting crime novel antihero Mike Hammer’s secretary.
The father and son make it a point to go hard when they work: decked out in full commando attire with their Lost “N” Found decal, armed with stun guns and pistols.
For Fisher it’s all about showing the Lost “N” Found flag wherever he goes. “All my guys wear the same thing: We have shirts that say “Fugitive Recovery Agent” and then we wear hats and black T-shirts and black pants,” he said. “We carry weapons, handcuffs; my youngest guy just bought a new .40 caliber Glock.”
Even in the produce aisle. “When I go grocery shopping and we wear our equipment, and nobody challenges us,” Fisher said.
But the top bounty hunter of the trio prefers to use less lethal force like his 400 million-volt stun gun and his BB gun. “I carry a 19-shot Smith & Wesson BB gun,” he said. “It can fire 480 feet per second—a 172 BB will go right through you. They’re dangerous.”
It’s not only clearing cases (sometimes sans cops) but also clearing warrants. “They don’t have to be felons,” Fisher said. “If we wanted to go to the courthouse we could get a bunch of bench warrants and go to arrest them. It’s nothing we could get paid for but good training, and the courts would be thanking us.”
A few fugitive recovery pros say otherwise.
It’s rare to go chasing anybody without being armed with a contract or deal inked with a bail bond office of some kind. And some in the field aren’t sure if Fisher and his mini-motley crew are acting like vigilantes and going after crooks willy-nilly.
“At the end of the day there’s good bounty hunters and then there’s the cowboys,” said Bill Burnett, 59, who has run Advantage Bail Bonds in Burlington, Vermont, since 1999 and remains suspicious of Fisher’s outfit. “A lot of people don’t know how to skip trace,” he said.
His seasoned colleague Jeffrey Stewart, 35, is just as perplexed by Fisher’s fugitive recovery squad, despite the father’s impressive law enforcement history. “Some of what they’re doing sounds illegal,” he said. “You can’t go searching for anybody with a warrant on them without some initiative or contract.”
Stewart, who is a licensed bail agent and investigator, likens anybody who is trying to toy with his industry by doing it solely for the money or without proper contract or scruples as “Rambos.” “It irritates me that people are out there pretending to be bounty hunters. People that do this are are dangerous individuals,” he said. “They are vigilantes and they are wannabes and giving us a bad name.”
He remains convinced if Fisher and his son keep up their unauthorized arrests they’ll “find themselves in jail.”
The same sort of grimacing reaction was expressed by Chuck Jordan, president of the National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents. “It sounds kind of bizarre to me,” he said of Fisher and his agents. “In this business what we try to get across is we’re business people, we’re out to make a living and at the same time we’re not trying to create liability with anyone… and we’re low-profile, absolutely.”
Fisher lets the criticisms roll. “I don’t worry or think about it,” he said. “If somebody thinks we’re a hoax and doing stuff for nothing, oh well. Sucks to be them. The system works and works well.”
For Father’s Day Fisher expects to kickback with his two sons (Casey, 32, decided not to follow in the bounty hunting family business). “I’ll be wearing the [Lost “N” Found] T-shirt but with shorts on,” he said of his planned attendance at an annual pig roast.
Then back to the Fisher home. “The whole family is coming and we’ll probably hang out on the lawn and have a beer and just relax.”
They will also play games.
“We’re good at horseshoes,” he said.