Restitution payments could accelerate under new auto pay system set to launch in Westmoreland County

Sep. 19—Five years after Richard Larrabee was mauled by a dangerous dog, he continues to deal with the pain and costs associated with the attack.

Owed more than $3,800 in restitution to cover his medical bills, Larrabee, 76, of Ruffs Dale hasn't seen a dime since March and has received just a small portion of what he's owed from the former owner of the animal that attacked him in a Derry home in 2018.

"I need the money to pay my medical bills," Larrabee said.

A change in how Westmore­land County collects fines, court costs and restitution could accelerate future restitution payments to victims such as Larrabee, Clerk of Courts Megan Loughner said.

Loughner said a new auto pay system will be launched next month to allow court costs, fines and restitution payments to be automatically deducted from a criminal defendant's bank account each month.

"Once it is set up, the payment will be drafted the same time each month and the restitution payments will be distributed to crime victims," Loughner said.

The automated system will replace the current payment model, which for decades has relied on defendants to pay their court-ordered costs, fines and restitution manually by cash or credit cards in person or through the mail.

The clerk of courts office collected more than $6.7 million in 2022, including nearly $1.7 million earmarked for restitution to crime victims. Through August, the office has collected more than $992,000 toward restitution this year.

Loughner said money is paid out to crime victims from the clerk's office about twice a month.

According to court records, Larrabee last received a $100 check in March. He is due to receive another $100 this month.

Larrabee was attacked by what police said was a dangerous dog in Derry Township where his son and then-girlfriend lived, according to court records.

"I went over there to cook dinner for them, and I laid down on the couch, got up to get a drink and that dog was all over me," Larrabee said. He said he suffered major injuries to his arms that required hospitalization.

The owner of the mixed-breed pit bull named Emma was cited with summary offenses for harboring a dangerous animal and failure to have it vaccinated for rabies. She was fined $800 and assessed another $209 in court costs. The judge also ordered her to pay $3,852 in restitution through $25 monthly payments to cover Larrabee's medical expenses.

Court records show only sporadic payments were made over the past five years.

Loughner said delinquency notices are sent out to defendants who fail to pay. After several months of nonpayments, defendants are summoned to the courthouse for hearings. Continued failure to pay can result in contempt of court findings, she said.

"We are certainly doing our due diligence to make sure victims are paid, to get them their money," Loughner said.

Staff will be on hand at clerk hearings starting in October to assist defendants in registering for auto pay.

She said early plans call for victims to be added to the system to allow them to receive payments more quickly.

"That is our next step. We need to get this up and running first," Loughner said.

Larrabee said the current process takes much too long for him to get what he's owed.

"I just need to pay my bills," he said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich by email at or via Twitter .