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      Hidalgo County cracks down on hot check writers

      There are years of cases piling up and filling an entire back wall, but this is nothing new for the Hidalgo County Hot Checks Division.

      Last year we collected a little over $3 million dollars, said Investigator Charlie Vela.

      This year, that amount has decreased to $2.3 million dollars collected. Vela said the decrease reflects the recent downfall in the economy.

      "Our conviction rate went up, said Vela. A lot of people are getting convicted because they don't have the money to pay these hot checks."

      From January of 2008 to October of 2010, the office collected over $7 million dollars.

      But it's in the month of February where they collect the most.

      "We see that every year, said Vela. There is a wave during the holiday season where people are spending money they don't have. It catches up to them in about February|that's when we start getting a wave of checks into the office."

      Vela said it is hard to catch up to some of these repeat offenders.

      "These people move from apartment to apartment and it's hard to catch up to them, but we eventually do," he said.

      One of those alleged hot check writers who racked up tens of thousands of dollars in hot checks is Elsa businesswoman Irma Gomez.

      Vela said Lo Mein Express and media company owner evaded the hot checks division for at least five months.

      She was finally caught this week when Vela said he spotted her at a local restaurant.