County attorney’s office on trail of hot check writers

August 17, 2013

Since Lori Kaspar was sworn in as county attorney in January, her office has been in hot pursuit of hot check writers.

That office has collected more than $38,000 in restitution – with approximately $26,600 going back to the merchants who were victimized, Kaspar reported to County Commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday.

Vendor fees paid to merchants were $6,400, Kaspar said, and collection fees paid to the county attorney’s office totalled more than $5,000.

Though the office tries to work with those guilty of writing hot checks – even letting them set up a payment plan – criminal charges are filed against those who refuse to make good on their debts.

Kaspar told commissioners that her office has filed 16 criminal cases in justice of the peace courts and six county Court-at-Law cases.

JP courts handle hot checks under $20. There is no jail time for those offenses, but fines can be as much as $500.

The Court-at-Law handles Class A and Class B misdemeanor hot check offenses.

A person can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor if they write a hot check that is more than $20, but less than $500. The crime carries the possibility of six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

A Class A misdemeanor charge can result from a hot check written for more than $500, but less than $1,500. Anyone found guilty of such an offense can face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

“We would rather that they pay their bad checks so the merchants can be whole,” Kaspar said. “As long as they keep paying toward their restitution, then we don’t file a case on them.”

Kaspar presented other figures tied to check collections.

Vendor fees paid to merchants thus far have amounted to $6,400, she said, and collection fees paid to the county attorney’s office have totaled more than $5,100.

By law, collection fees must be spent on something that benefits the county attorney’s office, such as training or salaries.

“She’s been great for us,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Berry said about Kaspar.

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