The company that employed security officers at the Federal Courthouse here issued paychecks to officers that bounced when they tried to cash them last week.

The company, USProtect, headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., is now being sued in federal bankruptcy court in Maryland.

USProtect provided security for a wide array of federal agencies, including the 3rd, 5th and 12th judicial districts. (The 3rd district includes all federal courts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.)

The U.S. Marshals Service awarded a new contract for court security to Virginia-based MVM Inc. on Friday.

The contract's start date was accelerated, said Steve Blando, a spokesman for the Marshals Service in Washington, after authorities were unable to contact USProtect about payroll checks that bounced.

An official with the United Government Security Officers of America, the union that represents 690 federal court security officers - including about 80 in the Philadelphia region - said virtually all of the officers' paychecks bounced last week.

Donna Huff, who heads the union's court-security- officers division, said USProtect shuttered its doors on Thursday. She said the company last made contributions to the court-security-officers' retirement plan in January.

An attorney for USProtect could not be reached for comment.

Blando said MVM also agreed to make good on any back pay that court officers didn't receive from USProtect.

The payroll checks issued by USProtect to some court security officers here actually began bouncing last month.

When some of the officers took their paychecks to Wachovia Bank, they were told the checks could not be cashed due to insufficient funds.

The USProtect checks were drawn on a Wachovia account.

Wachovia filed a claim against USProtect yesterday in federal bankruptcy court in Maryland for $15.2 million in unpaid business debts.

A spokeswoman for Wachovia said the company doesn't comment on customer relationships.

Two other petitioners also filed claims - in excess of $981,000 - for unpaid wages and retirement benefits.

USProtect won the $300-million contract to handle court security in the three judicial districts in September 2006.

The company has been under increased scrutiny in the media since its former chief operating officer and chief financial officer, Richard S. Hudec, pleaded guilty last November in federal district court in Maryland to tax evasion and concealing material information from federal contracting officials about his criminal past. *