The Miami Herald reported last month that a man the Herald referred to as “a notorious Miami swindler” was charged with grand theft and issuing worthless checks after allegedly writing $3,000 in bad checks to the Zoological Wildlife Foundation to “adopt” a white Bengal tiger cub named Esha. The alleged offender was already facing trial for at least $113,963 in alleged bounced checks for luxury suites at Miami Heat games during the 2012 NBA playoffs.
According to the Herald, the 35-year-old businessman’s attorney chalked up his “long history of writing worthless checks” to a gambling addiction. The Herald reported that the alleged offender has been in and out of jail for years for passing checks and is facing five criminal cases.
The alleged offender wrote the $3,000 bad check in September while he was out on bond and took his daughter for a birthday party at the five-acre private zoo. His daughter received park visits and a certificate declaring her a “zoo parent.”
“He was trying to be a good parent,” the man’s lawyer told the Herald. “But you have to be able to afford it.”
Miami Lawyer for Worthless Checks
Writing worthless checks (also referred to as “rubber checks”) in Florida is a criminal offense. If the value of the alleged check, draft, or debit card order drew, made, uttered, issued, or delivered was less than $150, worthless checks is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Alleged crimes involving $150 or more are classified as third-degree felony offenses punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Criminal penalties, however, are just one series of possible consequences people can face if convicted of worthless check crimes. Alleged offenders can also be subject to civil penalties under Florida Statute § 68.065. When a person fails to pay the amount owed within 30 days of receiving a written demand for the owed amount, he or she can be liable not only for the amount owed, but also treble damages (triple the amount of the actual damages), courts costs, and reasonable attorney fees.
Many people who write bad checks in Florida had absolutely no criminal intent. Honest accounting errors often lead to individuals assuming that they have adequate funds to cover the value of the checks they write.
If you were arrested for allegedly writing a worthless check in Miami-Dade County, it is in your best interest to retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Evan A. Hoffman is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Miami who can fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed.