County Program Makes Check Bouncers Pay

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Whether it's a bad check for 79 cents or $7,000, Amanda Dillon, bad-check program coordinator for Gila County, said she does her best to get her man or her woman.


She typically collects between $2,000 and $3,000 a month from people who write bad checks in Payson and Globe. From April of this year to the end of August, Dillon collected $20,000 for the county and $40,000 that went to compensate the victims.


"The bad-check program runs itself," she said. "I push it -- collect the money. We've been doing really good here. Payson has a lot more businesses than Globe."


The program, which is statewide and free to the victims, began in Gila County in 1990. Dillon began working with the program in 1997 -- her senior year of high school -- and began working full time in July 1998. She left the program to work as a legal secretary for the county, but returned as bad-check coordinator in April 1999.


In September the county moved the program to Payson. Dillon is getting to know business people here and goes to Globe once a week


"So they're not left out," she said. "We're not going to leave anybody out."


Dillon, along with County Attorney Jerry DeRose and Chief County Investigator Dave Franquero, talked to some 20 Payson business owners last week at Mario's about the increasing bad-check problem in town.


"Bad checks in Payson are becoming more and more of a problem," Dillon said Thursday. "In the summer it's real bad because of the travelers."


She said some businesses just take local checks, but there are many others that take checks from out-of-town and out-of-state residents.


Last week, Dillon met with local business owners to show them how to put a bad check into the program.


"It's not a prosecution program," Dillon said. "It's a recovery program. It gives people who write bad checks a second chance to pay before they're charged with a class 1 misdemeanor for each check."


Once a check is in the program, the check writer has 14 days to contact Dillon and arrange payment.


"If they don't notify me, that's when I take the complaint and file it with the justice court and it goes through the court process," she said.


In the court process, the check writer is charged with a misdemeanor and receives a summons to appear in court. Now a defendant, the person is required to appear in court even if he or she lives out of state.


"If they fail to appear, the judge issues a bench warrant," Dillon said. "There's a warrant out for their arrest. Either way, these people will pay for their checks."


The money Dillon and investigators with the county bring in each month includes a $25 fee that goes to the victim.


The program is free for businesses and others who receive bad checks, but anyone writing a bad check pays a lot more than the initial check.


The smallest check Dillon has had in the program, 79 cents written to a Globe convenience store, eventually cost the defendant $401.79. Fifty dollars went to the county attorney's office. The victim got an additional $25 and the court received $326.


The largest check, $7,000, was collected for a Globe construction company.


"(The perpetrator) went ahead and paid it before it got through the courts," Dillon said.


She is now working on recovering $3,000 written for cabinets in Payson. "Next week it should be in the court system," Dillon said. "It doesn't matter how large or how little, we're going to get the money.


Dillon once filed a 26-count complaint for checks written for between $100 and $300. Writing the bad checks cost the check writer an additional $650. The man notified Dillon before the problem was turned over to the courts.


The bad-check program is for checks under a year old for any amount. If the check is written on a closed account or if the amount exceeds $1,000, the defendant faces felony charges.


"Most of the time, it's misdemeanors," Dillon said.


"Every county in the state is pushing this now," she said. "We have meetings three or four times a year and discuss how much we've brought in, how much has been returned to the victim and we're updated on statutes."


Dillon said those who are working in the bad-check program have found that the best way to locate the perpetrator is if the business gets a Social Security number, date of birth, and/or a driver's license.


"These smaller businesses depend on their money, whereas, the big businesses often write them off," she said. "We push them both. Small businesses and big businesses are treated equally."


For information, or to receive a packet on the Gila County bad-check program, call Dillon at the County Attorney's Office at 474-4068.

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