- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DAYTON, OHIO (AP) - A company that sold gift certificates to thousands of businesses and individuals around the country has filed for bankruptcy protection.

CertifiChecks Inc., which abruptly closed in February, filed for Chapter 7 Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio. CertifiChecks listed assets of $1 million in personal property that included funds in savings and checking accounts in the filing. It also listed liabilities of $460,000.

A recorded message at the court clerk’s number for automated case information said a meeting of the company’s creditors was scheduled for June 10.

CertifiChecks Inc. had operated in 47 states. Its gift certificates, worth up to $100, were offered as promotional items by companies and chambers of commerce to steer business to local restaurants and retailers that accepted the certificates.

In a message on its Web site last updated March 9, the Dayton-based company said it shut down because of an “extremely difficult economic environment” and warned businesses that redeemed the certificates for goods or services not to deposit them in a bank because they would be returned. The Web site suggests that anyone holding the certificates should mail them to CertifiChecks for “potential” reimbursement from funds that will be turned over to a bankruptcy trustee.

There might not be much money to go around, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray said Tuesday.

“The fact that they’ve filed for Chapter 7 indicates that they believe there’s few or no assets available,” said Cordray, who sued the company in March, accusing it of failing to honor its gift certificates and of misleading consumers.

Cordray said he would press ahead with the case and estimated that tens of thousands of people are holding certificates that now can’t be used.

“It is a very broad problem, and we do know that a large number of chambers (of commerce) around the state were distributing CertifiChecks gift certificates on the understanding that CertifiChecks was good for its word, which they turned out not to be,” he said.

Besides business groups, CertifiChecks’ products also were used by the Army & Air Force Exchange Service beginning in 2003, so military families wouldn’t have to mail food, toiletries and other products to soldiers when those products were available at PXs where the soldiers were stationed.

A call to CertifiChecks’ toll-free phone number was met with a recording about the company’s shutdown. Its Dayton headquarters has appeared vacant.

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday for attorney Donald Harker, who is representing CertifiChecks in its bankruptcy case.

(This version CORRECTS that Cordray is attorney general, sted treasurer.)

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