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I wrote a check for $195 to an individual for a donation to

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I wrote a check for $195 to an individual for a donation to a charity. The next day I realized it was a scam and I stopped payment of the check at my bank. The person to whom I wrote the check took it to a Money Mart and got the $195. Money Mart did not get their money because I had stopped payment. Money Mart is now sending me nasty letters and phone calls saying I owe them $195 + $25 service charge and i am legally bound to pay them.

Hello Liz,
My name isXXXXX a licensed attorney. Glad to try and help out.
Sure sorry for the circumstances, truly. My heart goes out to you.
Accordingly, I'm pleased to share some good news with you, as follows. Yes, at first glance, the law does require you to pay the face value of the check plus a service charge (fee) not to exceed the statutory amount. California Civil Code § 1719. However, here's the good news. The law also provides relief to one in your shoes, meaning you have the defense of illegality available to you. California Commercial Code § 3305(a)(1). If you haven't already done so, your very best next move would be to file a police report and then provide the financial institution with the case number.
If you have a follow-up question or need clarification, please just say the word by using "reply" to reach me.
I truly hope all works out for you.
Take care,
Ben, J.D.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I talked to a sheriff this morning and he took down the info but said it wasn't really fraud because i freely wrote the check and gave it to the individual and the person did not alter the check in any way before cashing it. He said it was not a criminal case.


I'm in limbo-- I don't want to pay Money Mart $220 but i also don't want to be taken to civil court and have to pay court costs.

Hi there Liz,

Great to hear from you and thanks for writing back!
You did the right thing by going to law enforcement, so I commend you for doing so. Here's the rub, so to speak. The police and prosecution enjoy complete discretion over whether to investigate and/or prosecute. In other words, there's no way anyone -- not even an attorney -- can compel or force them to regard it as a criminal matter.
I would love to say otherwise, but here's the truth. You're stuck with making the following choice. You can pay the fees now, which of course I realize is absolutely not an attractive option. Or, you could wait to be sued and assert an affirmative defense. That's also not an attractive option, as it would rest with the Judge how to rule.
It boils down to those two choices under the law. I have spoken speak candidly rather than doing you the disservice of lying or misleading you. I didn't enact the law, and personally I often disagree with it, but nevertheless we're all stuck with it. I just didn't want to do you the disservice of lying or misleading you.
I am sorry.

Best regards,
Ben, J.D.
LawHelpNow and 11 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Hello Liz,

I enjoyed working with you recently.

How are things going?

Is there anything else I can do to help?

Please just let me know.


Ben, J.D.