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3/14/2004

Program helps merchants recover from bad checks

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Bad checks once lost value with every bounce, given cuts taken by professional collection agencies.

Not so today.

The Boulder County District Attorney’s office in October 2002 officially launched its Bad Check Restitution Program to give merchants better reimbursement odds and keep related costs from being passed on to consumers, according to program coordinator Linda Wickman.

The program targets first-time offenders and gives them a way to avoid criminal prosecution if they both reimburse the merchant in full and pay to attend an eight-hour intervention class.

The county then splits tuition proceeds and penalty fees with American Corrective Counseling Services, a large California-based company currently working cases for counties nationwide — seven of them in Colorado.

In 2003, investigations returned about $4,300 to area merchants, Wickman said. That number jumped in January to $8,700.

“It’s due to the holidays, and that we’re in the second year of the program now,” she said.

The program operates at no cost to the merchant or the taxpayer, Wickman said. Even the brochure bears the disclaimer, “Brochure not printed at taxpayers’ expense.”

“I haven’t heard any negative feedback. It’s all been positive,” said District Attorney Mary Keenan.

The Longmont Police Department picked up the program in June and expressed similar sentiments.

“I have no criticisms,” said Sgt. Jim Bundy. “We’ve actually been pretty happy with it because it saves the police department time and energy so we can investigate the higher priority criminal cases, like forgery.”

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.