A new solicitor's office unit has started prosecuting writers of bad checks, no matter how small the amount.
Since the Worthless Check Unit started Jan. 1, the program has received about 25 bad checks from service-oriented and small businesses, Unit Coordinator Maria Cabrera said. Soon, the unit will work with grocery and larger stores to prosecute offenders.
Because it's a crime to write a check without money to back it up, the collections unit will track down the money for businesses and individuals.
If the person who wrote the bad check doesn't make good on the amount to the unit, they'll face an arrest warrant and criminal prosecution by the 16th Circuit Solicitor's Office.
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The unit's only sent out notices so far, and no money has been retrieved yet, Cabrera said.
"We've only just begun the process," she said. "We've received 25 checks without really getting the word out."
Solicitor Kevin Brackett modeled this unit after other units around the state. The program runs off fines recovered from the writers of bad checks.
In the 7th Circuit, Spartanburg and Cherokee counties have recuperated $1.5 million since they started the program more than three years ago.
Most fraudulent checks are in small amounts, and Brackett said recovering that money can be a long process. This unit streamlines the process for merchants.
How the unit works
In order to use the free service provided by the unit, the fraudulent check needs to be written in York County for goods or services, Brackett said.
An arrest warrant is the check unit's last resort.
"Most people want to make good on bad checks immediately," he said. "This is for those who don't."
The merchant gives the check-writer time to cover the check before it is sent to the unit.
Then, Cabrera sends the offender a letter that gives him or her 10 days to respond before a second, certified letter is sent. After another 10-day period the arrest warrant is issued, she said. No warrants have been issued.
Even if the check-writer lives out of state, Brackett said a warrant will be issued. In some cases the person could be extradited from another state to pay for the bad check, he said.
The check amount and prior offenses could make the charge felony-level, Brackett said. Fines associated with the bad check are proportionate to how much the check was worth.
Once the money is recovered, the victim receives the amount of the original check plus the $30 insufficient fund fee. The rest of the fines go to the county and the unit for its operation.
Recipients of a fraudulent check are encouraged to call the Maria Cabrera, coordinator of the Worthless Check Unit at 909-7585 or e-mail her maria.cabrera@ yorkcountygov.com.
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