Bad check collections top $63K

Published 12:06 am Saturday, April 2, 2011

Yesterday might have been April Fool’s Day, but a good number of people have figured out that there’s “no foolin’ ” with bad checks these days in the Covington County courthouse.

“Today, we’ve had people come in and pay more than $8,000 in worthless checks,” DA Walt Merrell said. “I think people are saying, ‘They’re kind of serious about this.’ ”

April’s first day of collections bodes well for the possibility of a successive record collections month. In March, the DA’s worthless check unit, led by Angie Cotton and Max Smith, collected $63,603.50.

“That’s double any previous amount taken in in the same time period, and it’s because Max and Angie have been working really hard,” Merrell said.

There were also a number of arrests for worthless checks in March.

“That’s because they didn’t comply,” Merrell said. “We don’t fool around. If we tell you have until next Monday, when Monday comes, if you haven’t paid, we lock you up.”

When worthless checks are turned over to the DA’s office, the check writers are given an opportunity to work out a payment plan.

“After they’re arrested, we’ll continue to work with them,” he said. “The bad thing is, once you get warrants and they’re arrested, the court costs go through the roof. A $10 check can turn into a $900 check.”

Merrell said he expects March’s numbers to be the benchmark from which staff members work.

“We said we were going to get out here and take care of these checks,” Merrell, who took office in January, said. “Folks don’t need to make the mistake of thinking this was a surge and we’ll slack off. I expect this to be the mark from which we work every month.”