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How long doI have to collect on a bad check/refusal to pay? When does fraud become criminal and how is the complaint made?

Seattle, WA |

My publisher wrote me a check for >$ 20,000 which I didn't cash for a few months. When I did , the bank said the account was closed and offered no help ... however they told me the check was still good.

A lawyer notified publisher's attorney but a year later I hear nothing!

This bad check thing seems so blatant. Is there some gov't or law enforcement place I could turn to.

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Attorney answers 1


I do not see how the check can be good if the account is closed. In Texas, the timing for a criminal act with regard to writing a check is at the time when the check is written, and it continues. What I mean by this is that when the publisher wrote the check, especially for that amount, he knew whether or not he had the money in that account. When he closed the account, he knew that the money had not come out. If at the time he wrote the check, there were insufficient funds to cover the check, he committed a felony offense at least in Texas (known as theft by check IF he was paying for services already rendered or making a deposit for services to be rendered which were rendered without notice that they were no longer desired.) You should contact the local prosecutors' office. In many jurisdictions, there is a special section which deals with hot checks. They can tell you whether there is a criminal case, and if so and they file charges, they can seek restitution.

If the check was for services or goods that have not been rendered or received and your are not out-of-pocket any money, it will be difficult to collect under civil or criminal laws, in general. (That said, do not run out now and expend money or time to make there be a loss for the company to have to pay up.)

If this is truly a civil situation and you have suffered a loss, ask your lawyer why you are not pursuing the matter through a civil suit. I do not know the statute of limitations in your area, but a year is too long for you to be at a loss of that amount and it is time to take the situation to the next step. (That said, if your lawyer took the case on a contingency basis - you did not have to pay unless he recovers - then he may have decided that the publisher has no money and a lawsuit would be a waste of time and his money. Talk to the lawyer about this. If you are not satisfied, have him cancel your contract and seek other representation. BUT, I would still talk with the prosecutors' office first to see if criminal activity occurred and can be prosecuted with restitution being made to you.)