Worthless Check Unit A Sweet Deal For Some - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/14/05

Worthless Check Unit A Sweet Deal For Some

In the more than 50 years that Quality Bakery has served treats, collecting on hot checks has been anything but icing on the cake.

"Before the worthless check division came in, the bad check division at the DA's office, we would have to take people to court," employee Lee Lee LaBatard says. "We would have to sue people out of our pocket in order to collect."

Now when she gets a bad check, all LaBatard has to do is fill out an affidavit and send it to the DA's office. That's where the staff in the worthless check division takes over.

"Our court system was being literally bogged down with bad checks. Not to mention our police departments. Some of it did flow over to your local law enforcement agencies and they were just overwhelmed with problems, so what we've tried to do is alleviate the burden off of them," says office manager Suzette Necaise.

The office opened in 1989 to address what Necaise says is a huge problem across the country. She shared with us one year's figures from Harrison, Stone and Hancock Counties.

"All of '04 we have taken in 11,500 checks, bad checks. Now for this particular year, on your dollar amount, we have collected a million and a half dollars."

When a business files a complaint against a customer with the district attorney's office, the DA then sends a series of letters asking the person to make good on the check. If that doesn't work, the DA can issue an arrest warrant.

A bad check totaling more than $100 is a felony, punishable by three years in prison.

The district attorney says the system works.

"It not only works here, it works around the country. We weren't the first people to have it and we certainly aren't the last. In fact, we're often asked by those in and out of state about how to set these up, and be as affective as ours has been," says Cono Caranna.

Lee Lee LeBatard is convinced. She says the worthless check unit is really a sweet deal.

byMarcia Hill

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