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LAWRENCE COUNTY Program's focus: halting bad checks



Published: Tue, July 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The eight-hour course will teach people how to manage money.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A new program will teach people who write bad checks in Lawrence County something about personal responsibility and force them to pay up.

The Bad Check Restitution Program will put first-time bogus check writers through an eight-hour course on financial responsibility, budgeting and managing checkbooks.

Started by Matthew Mangino, county district attorney, the program is an effort to alleviate the high number of bad-check charges filed each month in common pleas court.

Bad-check writers will take the course before criminal charges are filed, and the program will get them to pay merchants the money owed from the bogus checks.

The cost: "As district attorney, I have grown increasingly concerned about the number of local businesses that have become the victim of worthless checks. Bad checks affect everyone in terms of costs that must be paid to offset losses, as well as the cost involved in law enforcement and prosecution," Mangino said.

Mangino added that bad-check charges account for about 20 percent of the cases that come to the trial court each month. Many cases are postponed from month to month as merchants try to collect their money, he said.

The goal of the program, which is modeled after programs in other states, is to alleviate the burden on the local courts and get the money owed to merchants, he added.

Instructors will talk to chronic bad-check writers about their behavior and give them tips on managing checkbooks, stress and budgets.

Payment: The program will be paid for by $140 fees assessed to the bogus-check writers, Mangino said. No tax dollars will be used.

"This is an effort to lessen the burden on the criminal trial docket, while at the same time collecting restitution and holding offenders more accountable," the district attorney said.

Someone from the DA's Bad Check Restitution Program will visit local businesses to explain the program, answer questions and provide forms to use the program.

cioffi@vindy.com




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