By Stan Oklobdzija
Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe recently announced his office is taking bold new measures in order to combat check fraud in Amador County.
“My goal in establishing this New Bad Check Restitution Program is to increase responsiveness to victims,” said Riebe in a news release. “This new program will increase the accountability of those who pass bad checks without increasing any administrative or financial burden on the criminal justice system.”
The program would mandate full restitution be paid by those who commit check fraud, as well as compulsory attendance in a “special education and intervention class regarding their personal accountability and responsibility as citizens.” In addition, the new program will be funded entirely by the bad check writers themselves, making the program free to both participating businesses and Amador County taxpayers.
“There is no cost to you and you will receive 100 percent restitution on any check we are successful in recovering – plus any bank charges,” said Riebe.
The new Bad Check Program is geared primarily to first time offenders or those with minimal criminal records.
“Mistakes can happen,” said Riebe, “and tough circumstances can also happen. There should be an opportunity for people to keep their financial records clean.”
By keeping these cases off the court docket, Riebe hopes to create a system that saves money while responding better to the needs of check fraud victims.
“Right now we have a private vendor,” said Riebe, in reference to the previous Bad Check Program started by his predecessor Steve Cilenti in 1998, “but we feel this would be better. With in-house programs that use local law enforcement, there´s a greater degree of responsiveness to victims.”
Ultimately, the choice of who could utilize the program would fall upon the D.A.´s office.
“It´s our decision if they´re eligible or not,” said Riebe, “and if they do it again, they´ll likely not be eligible the second time.”
Riebe also noted that offenders who habitually pass bad checks in other counties will most likely not be able to participate.
“Check fraud,” said Riebe, “is a big problem anywhere, particularly small businesses because that´s how they pay their bills.”
Overall, Riebe is optimistic. “We anticipate a greater success rate than the previous program because we´re going to hold their feet to the fire,” he said. “More restitution will be paid in the earlier stages of the process, so we can narrow down the time it takes for victims to get their money.”
Riebe said that businesses who´ve already signed up will be getting their informational packets later this week. Interested parties can register online at www.amadorda.com /badchecks.
“I´ve talked to numerous businesses and they repeatedly tell me that we´ve got to get this money back,” he said. “They´re not chain stores, this is their life blood.”
Reprinted with kind permission from Amador Ledger Dispatch