FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:May 2, 2014
Contact: Heather F. WilliamsonCommonwealth’s Attorney’s Office20 East Market StreetLeesburg, VA 20176-2809(703) 777-0242
CHECK ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM RUNNING STRONG AFTER EIGHT YEARS
MORE THAN A HALF-MILLION DOLLARS IN BAD CHECKS SUBMITTED
LEESBURG, VA – This year marked the eight-year anniversary of Loudoun County’s Check Enforcement Program, which has recovered over $283,000 in restitution and fees to victims of bad check writing. “We continue to receive positive feedback from the business community on this Program and our expectations are being met consistently each year,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman of the program he initiated in February 2006. The Check Enforcement Program gives merchants and other victims an effective, no-cost way to recover funds lost to bad checks while also training businesses to protect themselves against bad checks. It also incorporates an educational component, which helps educate offenders from passing bad checks in the future. “Currently, there are several hundred merchants across Loudoun County that are registered and participate with the program,” Plowman stated. While the annual number of checks has leveled off over the past few years as people turn more and more to other forms of electronic bill payment, the Program has still handled over 3,600 checks during the eight year period.
Similar to other diversion programs, the Check Enforcement Program offers bad check writers an opportunity to avoid the possibility of prosecution. To avoid the court process and an appearance before a judge, they must fulfill all conditions of the program, which includes full restitution and payment of a victim fee to cover costs incurred as a result of the bad check. A small administrative fee is also assessed to ensure there is no expense to victims, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office or the taxpayers.
Additionally, law enforcement, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the courts are relieved of having to investigate, prosecute and try a large number of bad check cases through the formal court process. “Most citizens would be very surprised to learn the number of bad check cases that were being referred to law enforcement. These resources can be more properly directed toward more serious crimes that involve personal safety,” said Plowman. Should the program prove unsuccessful, prosecution remains an available alternative.
The Program deals with checks that were dishonored because of Insufficient Funds, Closed Account or No Account. Check forgeries, stolen checks or counterfeit checks should be referred to law enforcement immediately and are not accepted into the program. “All cases are screened first to make sure that they are an appropriate match for the program,” stated Plowman. “The deliberate thieves and those with significant and lengthy criminal histories still go to court.” “The program is 100% voluntary and comes at no financial cost to the public or to local businesses,” continued Plowman. “It simply provides businesses with an additional option to assist them in recovering loss.” To learn more about the Check Enforcement Program, or how your business can participate, please contact Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ryan Perry at (703) 777-0242.