Local Seafood Restaurant Owners Accused of Writing Bad Checks

WILMINGTON -- A local couple that runs a fish and seafood store is accused of writing bad checks for thousands of dollars. Now, prosecutors say they plan to charge them with the crimes.

Carlos Neto, owner of Fish Neto, a local seafood distribution company, said the owners of Howard's Seafood wrote him bad checks in August. Together, the checks add up to nearly $5,000. The worthless checks put a dent in Neto's business.

"In my opinion, they have only one name: crooks," Neto said. "The reason I say this is because I did my own investigation, and found out a lot of bad things on this business."

Judy and Wayne Howard, owners of Howard's Seafood at the corner of Castle and Fifth streets, had been arrested for writing bad checks in the past, investigators said.

District Attorney Ben David said he is determined to protect the public and will take out misdemeanor criminal charges against the Howards.

"When we see someone who is habitually using a checkbook and a pen to write these checks, rather than a gun and a ski mask to steal, we have to go after them and treat them like criminals," David said.

Because each check was made out for less than $2,000, detectives could not take out felony charges against the Howards.

Neto said each time he sold seafood to the Howards, they told him they would only pay less than $2,000.

"She was clever, she did that, and she knew what she was doing," said Neto. "Of course, when you are a crook, you know exactly what you are doing."

The Howards told WECT over the phone that this was a misunderstanding. They said the checks bounced because other checks they received from Wilmington restaurants had bounced.

Neto said he had been promised his money back later this week.
He said getting the money back is not as important as seeing Judy and Wayne Howard behind bars, but that will be up to a judge to decide.

Reported by Kacey Gaumer