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Published: Monday, 11/11/2002

County to repeat its poster program

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Seven months ago, 32 deadbeat parents appeared in Lucas County on wanted posters for failing to pay more than $691,000 in child support.

Since then, 23 of them have appeared in Lucas County again - this time in court -to answer the charges, eventually paying $38,055.80 to their 31 children.

That's enough to make the $10,000 poster campaign earlier this year worth the cost and worth doing again, said Lucas County prosecutor Julia Bates yesterday. “That means we're $28,000 ahead,” Mrs. Bates said.

The poster, released this spring and appearing in The Blade April 7, generated citizens' tips that helped Lucas County sheriff's deputies close some of their most frustrating cases. The 31 men and two women on the poster were chosen because they repeatedly dodged authorities, Deputy Morris Baldwin said.

Often acting on tips, Deputy Baldwin and his colleagues traveled to Florida, California, Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Michigan to catch up with some of the suspects. Others were located locally.

One man in East Toledo was arrested after deputies watched his house for several hours.

“We sat there through breakfast, and we were there at lunchtime,” Deputy Baldwin said. “Then school was out and a fight broke out in front of his house. He came barreling out the house to break up the fight, we went barreling over to arrest him.

“As soon as he saw us, he knew why we were there,” the deputy said. “They always do.”

While most of the suspects have been caught, less than 6 percent of the money that is owed in those cases has been collected.

“But you can't start collecting a dime until you catch them,” Mrs. Bates noted.

Indeed, Anthony Guinn, 39, is listed as paying only $10 of his $45,360 debt to his child. In comparison, Tommy Ward, 33, more than paid off his $12,955 debt after he was caught, said Pat Hays, a prosecutor who specializes in child-support enforcement cases.

The poster is a “good tool in the tool kit” for child support enforcement investigators, who can take measures to suspend deadbeat parents' driving licenses or collect wages and tax refunds from them, said Walter Graff, assistant director of the Lucas County Child Support Enforcement Agency.

“In some cases, you'll never get all your money at once,” he said. “But the poster can be very effective in the right case.”



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