Feds Launch Most Wanted Website for Worst Deadbeat Parents
Since the FBI launched its 10 Most Wanted list in 1950, 494 fugitives have had the dubious distinction of being featured—and 94 percent of those have been apprehended. Perhaps with those impressive statistics in mind, the federal government launched a new most-wanted list last month that features some of the country’s worst deadbeat parents.
Among those in the spotlight:
- Robert Sand: Listed as the “most wanted deadbeat,” Sand owes more than $1 million in child support for three children from two marriages. According to the site, “Arrest warrants for Sand were issued in 2000, 2002, and 2010 on charges of Failure to Comply with a Court Order and Failure to Pay Child Support. In addition, a Federal indictment was issued for Sand in 2009 on two charges of Failure to Pay Child Support.” Sand is thought to be living in Thailand or the Philippines.
- Dennis Thomas: This 46-year-old father owes $68,400, and a warrant was issued for his arrest in December 2009. He’s thought to possibly be living in Montana.
- Edward Morrill: This 60-year-old dad has eluded authorities since he was indicted in August 2003. He owes $59,800 and is possibly living in Colorado or Mexico.
The list of deadbeat parents, which is maintained by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services, also celebrates some of the OIG’s successes. Stephen Swallow (owes about $300,000), Glen K. Sheppard (owes $164,000) and Rusty Donnie Gene Haile (owes $116,727.20) have all been captured, though it’s not clear that the site was directly responsible.
Non-Payment of Child Support is a Crime
Nationwide, non-payment and underpayment of child support is a problem that’s reached epidemic proportions. According to recent US Census Bureau data, only about 40 percent of custodial parents receive all of the child support to which they’re entitled. The majority of custodial parents receive only partial payment—or none at all.
State and federal law enforcement officials have a variety of tools at their disposal to help compel payment of past-due child support. Among the possible penalties for deadbeats:
- Wages can be garnished, and tax refunds and workers’ compensation payments can be seized
- The parent’s driver’s license, as well as professional and recreational licenses, can be suspended
- Passport applications can be denied
- Deadbeat parents can be jailed
But as Lawyers.com has reported, the laws are often of little use against parents who want to avoid honoring their child support obligations.
The federal government, and the OIG in particular, can intervene in a variety of situations, including:
- If there’s more than a year of unpaid support and the parent lives in a different state than the child, or
- If the parent owes more than $5,000 in unpaid support and lives in a different state than the child, or
- If the parent moves to another state or country in a deliberate effort to avoid paying child support.
For 14 years, a group of federal and state agencies have collaborated in an effort known as “Project Save Our Children,” which pursues and prosecutes the nation’s worst deadbeats. “Since 2006, the federal government has convicted more than 500 deadbeat parents who failed to pay more than $33 million in child support payments,” the OIG says.
Lawyers who handle child support cases are optimistic about the website’s potential.
“The new website from the Inspector General’s Office targets some of the worst deadbeat parents that have abandoned their parenting responsibilities and fled to another state,” says lawyer Stephen McDonough of The Divorce Collaborative LLC. “The website, if publicized enough, should prove to be a helpful tool to locate them. The success of shows and websites such as America’s Most Wanted proves enlisting the help of the public works. I don’t see any reason why the same concept would not be effective in locating deadbeat parents, and it is not a large use of resources to set up a website to help locate these offenders.”