Illustration by Brian Stauffer.
Denise Grollmus of the SFWeekly news magazine reports that Julie Orr has plenty of reasons to bounce a check.
In just a few years, she's gone from running a successful advertising business to being a single mom on disability. Hers is a dilemma of American life: A leg injury keeps her from working, but she can't afford the surgery without health insurance.
Yet Orr says her woes didn't lead her to write a bum check at the grocery store. "Sure, we've fallen on tough times," says the 54-year-old from Riverside. "But I've never bounced a check before in my life. I've always been on top of my finances."
Accidentally overdrawing one's bank account isn't a crime. It is, however, a hyper-lucrative business, allowing banks to collect $30 billion a year in overdraft fees while their customers frantically swim back to the surface. Such is the bounty of faulty math.
So Orr was shocked when she received a letter from the Riverside District Attorney's Office accusing her of fraud.
In May, she wrote a check for $91 at an Albertson's grocery store. A few days later, while reviewing her bank account, she noticed that the check had bounced. Orr headed back to Albertson's to make good on her payment. But she was told that the store had already placed her in collections. It was out of the grocer's hands.
A month later, Orr received a letter from the district attorney's office. It inexplicably accused her of intent to commit fraud, noting that she was now eligible for "up to one year in the county jail." The only way to avoid criminal charges: participate in the county's "voluntary" bad-check restitution program.
"The letter really made me think I'd go to jail if I didn't," she says.
Go here for the full story on the website of the SFWeekly news magazine --->>>