Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rice has been rolling up some big numbers when it comes to collecting on bad checks written to Nodaway County business owners.
After calling a press conference Friday in the commission chambers at the County Administration Center, Rice announced that his office had returned more than $100,000 to area merchants in the nine months between January 1 and September 30.
The insufficient funds checks ranged in size from $5.32 to $10,000, and the $116,000 year-to-date total nearly doubled the combined $58,000 in collections from the first two years of Rice's term, which began in January 2011.
Last week, Rice, Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White and all three members of the County Commission were on hand to celebrate the prosecutor's continuing campaign against bad paper, smiling for the camera while holding a gigantic check for 100 grand made out to "Nodaway Co. Citizens" and signed "Bad Check Writers."
The subject line read, "Restitution."
In addition to recovering funds for business owners and other individuals victimized by bad check writers, Rice said his office has also collected approximately $8,000 in fees that go toward enhancing county law enforcement efforts.
Rice said that was appropriate given the level of support his office has received from White and his deputies, who do much of the heavy lifting in the field.
"Darren has been great," Rice said. "He and his people have done everything I've asked them to. He's awesome. We've spread the word to citizens and to the merchants about how easy it is to get bad checks prosecuted in Nodaway County."
A big part of that message, Rice said, is that the county is "pro-business" and determined to "run a tight ship."
Rice began his assault on bad paper shortly after taking office nearly three years ago by relieving business owners of much of the expense and paperwork that had been associated with prosecuting insufficient funds checks.
Prior to 2011, merchants were required to send the check writer a registered letter demanding payment within ten days. If no money was forthcoming, the business owner could ask the prosecutor to move forward with charges after paying a $25 administrative fee plus mileage to the Sheriff's Office for delivering a second warning.
Merchants were also required to come up with such details as the alleged offender's date of birth and Social Security number.
Rice streamlined the process by waiving the fee and simply asking merchants to report alleged bad checks to his office and fill out a brief form. Under the new procedure, Rice's staff then writes the registered letter, which is required by state law.
If payment is not made within ten days, the sheriff or a deputy is directed to issue a second warning in person. Continued failure to pay up can result in an arrest warrant and the threat of jail time in the event of conviction.
Page 2 of 2 - "Basically people just have to give me a call," said Rice, adding that his two full-time staff members have been able to handle the extra paperwork without added expense to taxpayers.
"We didn't have to add staff," he said. "It was really just a matter of adding the procedure into our daily routine."
Significantly increasing the number of bad check reimbursements to local businesses "just makes you feel good," said Rice, who makes no bones about enjoying the "relief" he sees in the faces of merchants after they recover money owed to them.
"It's a really rewarding part of my job," he said.