Prosecutors Lose in Wal-Mart Change
This month, Wal-Mart started sending its bad checks to a private company for collection. The retailer used to rely on county prosecutors. The Callaway County prosecutor investigates thousands of dollars in bad checks each year, and a big chunk used to come from Wal-Mart.
"In the first 11 months of the year, we collected in bad checks and fees on those, $137,000," explained Callaway County Prosecutor Robert Sterner. "Of that, $17,000 was Wal-Mart."
He says the collections from Wal-Mart customers brought his office $3,000 in fees.
"The check money has allowed us to do things like buy all new computers," Sterner added. "They've allowed us to supplement some wages. Also allowed us to fill in some gaps on big trials."
And there's an even bigger effect where there are more Wal-Marts. Bad check collections from Wal-Mart customers have brought more than $12,000 this year to the Boone County prosecutor's office. It uses the money to pay for salaries, training and office supplies.
Sterner says he'll keep prosecuting people who write bad checks if Wal-Mart sends them to him.
"That collecting checks is going to be done some other way, that doesn't impact prosecution of checks," he said. "We prosecute checks if we have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed."
The Boone County prosecutor's office fears Wal-Mart won't send it any more bad checks. That makes it harder to prosecute crimes like forgery. But, the prosecutor's office doesn't expect a big drop in revenue because a new Missouri law lets the office collect higher fees on bad checks it prosecutes.