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January 30, 2011

Anderson County D.A.'s office set for hot check roundup

PALESTINE — The Anderson County district attorney's office has announced an initiative which will give the county's hot check writers a small window of opportunity to clear up their cases without criminal consequences.

Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe and his office are teaming up with the Anderson County Sheriff's Office and other local  law enforcement officials to do a theft-by-check warrant roundup on an undetermined date in March.

Between now and Feb. 11, however, Lowe's office is giving hot check writers an incentive to act quickly, according to Trevor Theilen, assistant district attorney for Anderson County.

Defendants who pay off their checks and fees in full by 5 p.m. on Feb. 11 will have their hot charges dropped by the DA's office, according to Theilen.

"At last count, there were at least 350 theft-by-check warrants outstanding," Theilen said. "Anderson County small businesses pay the price for hot check writers' carelessness and. sometimes, outright greed. Hot check writers, this is your last chance to make things right before we lock you up.

"If you pay by the 11th, your case will be dismissed outright, your warrant will be withdrawn and you will not be required to appear in court," the assistant district attorney added. "This is one last chance for a person to avoid the permanent damage of a theft conviction which is an offer that's too good to pass up. After Feb. 11, there will be no more amnesty."

"Those missing the Feb. 11 deadline will get a final chance to avoid the embarassment of having their friends and neighbors know they face criminal charges," Theilen pointed out.

"Anyone with a current warrant who does not pay off their checks and fees by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 23 will find their names posted in the newspaper and online," Theilen explained. "Anyone who ignores the amnesty period, but later pays full restitution and fees can stay out of jail, but will still have to deal with the theft charges in court and potentially owe court-assessed fines and court costs."

A warrant roundup on an undisclosed date in early March will culminate the event, Theilen said.

"Whether you're at work, at home, in your car or at the store," he stated, "we will find you and hold you responsible for putting our community's merchants and businesses at risk."

Anyone with concerns about potential hot checks is urged to contact Toni Brown, hot check manager for the Anderson County district attorney's office, at (903) 723-7466 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Persons can also appear in person at the DA's office on the third floor of the Anderson County Courthouse.

The district attorney's office accepts payments for restitution and fees in cash, money orders, and credit and debit cards.

Payments can also be made over the telephone and internet, according to Theilen.

"We're basically trying to put a fairly large scale program to really put a hole in a lot of our outstanding theft-by-checks," Theilen said.

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