POSTED: Friday, May 14, 2010 - 2:29pm
UPDATED: Friday, May 14, 2010 - 6:36pm
EL PASO -- Authorities in El Paso County are saying pay up or go to jail. Law enforcement is planning what they call a massive warrant roundup in the name of small businesses that have been ripped off.
At Casablanca Flowers on the Westside you'll have to pay with cash or card because as the sign on the door says, "no checks accepted." Owner Mary Reyes says there's a good reason behind the rule: hot check writers.
"These people don't have a job. They're not working. They close accounts and it's not a miscalculation on a balance, it's deliberate,” she said.
Reyes used to take checks years ago before you could pay with plastic but just too many people were ripping her off.
"Unfortunately when these checks bounce it's very unlikely I'm going to see my money,” she said.
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal wants that to change. She has a plan to go after anyone who has a warrant for writing a hot check.
"We have an obligation as prosecutors to do everything we can to insure merchants who are ripped off get money back."
A number of local law enforcement agencies are behind the most recent warrant roundup announced Friday morning. Bernal says there are 3,600 people in the county with warrants for writing hot checks.
"Businesses and individuals are owed $3.4 million dollars because of bad checks written in this community, Bernal said.
As part of the roundup anyone with a warrant who doesn't pay up by May 28th will have their name posted on the county's website. If they don't pay by June 7th they could be arrested when the amnesty period ends. Small business owners like Reyes want hot check writers to be held accountable.
"I don't think it's too drastic a measure. When you're writing a check and signing it you're responsible for that money.”
You can find out if you have a warrant for a hot check by calling the County Attorney's office. You can make a payment at the following locations:
El Paso County Courthouse
500 E. San Antonio, room 503 (5th floor)
Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m
El Paso County Ysleta Annex
9521 Socorro Rd., Suite A-3
Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m
You can also pay online at: www.epcounty.com/CA