LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – It's a crime that's often overlooked, but is robbing businesses blind. Hot checks are stacking up in Angelina county and so is the cost of prosecuting those who write them.
One area business owner, who asked that we protect her identity, tells KTRE how check bouncing is costing her business.
The woman owns her own cash-checking service. Business should be booming, but she's not earning what she expected. Hot checks are costing her thousands each year.
"We take a percentage of the checks that we cash and then you know if you get someone that cashes a large check and you can't collect it then you've lost everything," she said.
When checks bounce she takes them to the Angelina County Attorney's Office.
"A lot of times they just sit there and we don't get them collected and we've had checks in the past that's never been collected," she said.
County Attorney Ed Jones says he's fighting for every penny owed, but it can be a lengthy process.
"A check comes in and if somebody ignores our letters, we issue a warrant. That warrant goes over to the sheriff's office to the warrant officer, and that warrant's subject to being served by my investigator or any law enforcement officer," explained Jones.
In 2010 alone, the balance of uncollected checks totaled more than 108-thousand dollars. The county did collect more than twice that, so it's not a wasted effort.
"It's always a challenge to collect hot checks and if you can collect 70-75 percent of them, that's in my opinion a very good rate," said Jones.
Actually, fewer and fewer checks are bouncing in the first place.
"There are not as many hot checks being written but it's still a problem in Angelina county and we're still trying to address it," said Jones.
There are serious consequences.
"Instead of them having to pay restitution to us for the hot check, they go sit it out in jail and they don't have to pay anything," said the Lufkin woman.
It is a frustrating crime for businesses losing money, with the county picking up the tab to enforce.
Angelina county merchants have a choice. Attorney Ed Jones says they can bring checks to his office, hire a private collector, or file a civil suit.