MCLENNAN COUNTY (March 26, 2013)-The McLennan County DA's office says they're starting to hone in more on people who write hot checks, and it's helping local businesses in the county get paid what they're owed.
Last February proved to be a milestone for the DA's office.
They collected and returned a total of $134,573.22 to businesses and merchants in McLennan County that were issued hot checks in the past.
Numbers from last February went down as the highest restitution the DA's office has collected from hot check offenders in the last three years.
District Attorney Abel Reyna says he credits his office for taking a tougher stance on people who are writing hot checks within the county.
"When you see that sign that says 'if you write a hot check then you will go to jail,' that means something now," Reyna said.
"In the past, there was no monitoring of hot check payments and no consequences were being handed out for not paying. Now, those consequences are very real and present."
The DA's office says the top merchant in McLennan County that gets hot checks is H-E-B.
Last February, the DA's office returned a little over thirty thousand dollars' worth in hot check restitution to the grocery store.
Yet, the DA's office recent dent on hot check collections has helped smaller businesses as well.
Uncle Dan's Barbeque in Waco is just one business that has seen an increase in hot check restitution, something they rarely saw in years past.
"Its money that we've earned and we're getting it back finally," Uncle Dan's Vice President Dan Henderson Jr. said.
"You know its money just to put back into our business, our customers, and community."
The DA's office recently began a hot check pretrial intervention program that helps first time hot check offenders avoid jail time if they pay off owed money.
Reyna says that program has helped his office collect the most in restitution.