Pioneer Credit Recovery, a collection agency in New York state, has helped Macon County, Illinois recoup $320,000 in outstanding fines and fees since starting work for the county in March 2012.

The debts had accumulated over two decades, with the earliest cases handled by the agency dating to 1993.

Macon County, located in the middle of the state near Springfield, was owed more than $38 million in outstanding fines and fees, according to an audit conducted a few years ago, county officials said.

During the five-year period before Pioneer Credit took over, the county had collected only an estimated $18,000.  Before that, there was no collection work taking place.

Pioneer Credit specializes in government debt collections, earns commission by adding 30% to the outstanding debts. The bulk of the money returned to the county will go to the courts, with portions headed to law enforcement agencies and the state’s attorney’s office. Payments are being sent to the victims in cases where restitution was ordered.

Macon County Circuit Clerk Lois Durbin told the Herald-Review in Decatur, Ill., that the agency possibly could go further back than 1993 because there are no limitations to anything owed a government entity. In some cases, the agency starts collecting 90 days after a defendant fails to pay, largely through letters that include warnings about warrants and driver’s license suspensions.

The largest amount collected from one person so far was $7,961 from a 2002 attempted murder case that was pleaded down to aggravated discharge of a firearm and burglary. The defendant was ordered to pay restitution of $5,683, along with a seven-year prison term and a fine. The victim compensation will be paid next month, according to the circuit clerk’s office.

Pioneer Credit collects for an estimated 50 counties in Illinois alone. The firm's government business includes working with the U.S. Department of Education

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