Worthless Check Amnesty–With a New Way to Pay

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Deputies will soon start showing up at homes and workplaces to arrest writers of worthless checks, but those people have the whole month of February to pay up without having to go to court.

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office has thousands of worthless check cases they hope to close and they added a new option that allows payment online or over the phone.

District attorney Mike O’Dell said the nCourt company contacted his office and set up the credit card payment program at no cost the county, although the service applies a processing fee to users making payments.

“It is a very efficient way to do it and it does provide somebody an alternative who may not have the cash right now when the 10 days are up that they have to pay; they can pay later in the month when they get paid and then they pay the credit card company,” O’Dell said.

The district attorney said at least 50 percent of bad checks are not intentional, and are cases where people simply write a check without having enough money in their accounts.

However there are scammers, and O’Dell said that’s no different than robbing the register.

“That’s no different than stealing from them, it’s just a different kind of theft,” he said.

“Go into a store you can write a check, you can walk out and it seems cleaner to the thief.”

A few bad checks here and there add up, and the district attorney said he’s seen small independent shops and stores forced to close as a result.

“Mom and pop stores have such small margins for profit that you get a handful of checks totaling just two-, three-, four-thousand dollars, they can’t stay in business,” O’Dell said.

That is why the worthless check unit takes this so seriously, and a few of the thousands of open cases on which they are working date back to the early 1990s.

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It is why they will do a warrant round-up in March to go to homes and workplaces to arrest violators, and the conviction rate is nearly 99 percent.

“Many times you get to their house and they want to pay on the spot, and we have people available to take the money and write them receipt before we bring them in,” O’Dell said.

Payment and restitution in February avoids arrest, court, and about $300 in fees.

“If you write a $10 check and you haven’t made it right, if you’ve ignored the letters from the merchant and you’ve ignored the letters from our office,┬áif you wind up being arrested and prosecuted, a $10 check could cost you as much as $510,” the district attorney said.

The worthless check unit expects to collect at least $15,000 to $20,000 in February, and O’Dell said DeKalb County closed 65% of its cases during their amnesty month in 2012.

Officials said the online credit payment method is going well and that several other Alabama district attorneys called him to get information about adding it in their counties.

To make a payment online visit www.9thaldapay.com or call (800) 701-8560.

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