Child support roundup: Dead beat parents arrested

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Geared up and ready to go. With 100 outstanding warrants in hand, deputies in teams of two set out in 12 units on the latest child support round up.

"These are people who have exhausted almost all alternatives. The only thing we had left was to issue a warrant and pick them up," said Cathy Michiels, Support Enforcement Regional Administrator.

Michiels says unlike roundups of the past, accused offenders don't go straight to jail. Instead they come to the Office of Family Support to try and work a deal. Case workers are standing by, meeting with each clients - they inform them of their options. The first pay up and go home. The second enter a work release program at the Academy of Training Skills in Lacassine, or go to jail.

But Michiels says sending them to jail is not their goal, getting the money for the children is. The Office of Family Support joined forces with ATS in September of 2009. Michiels says it's the best of both worlds for everyone involved.

"If we can put them in the work release program, they get some behavior modification counseling, substance abuse counseling, and the bottom line for us is they do work... And are able to pay us for the children," explained Michiels. "However, there are some restrictions on them. They have to live at ATS and pay their rent and room and board, but they are also put to work and in that respect, we're able to collect some child support."

With their get of jail card, they begin dialing for dollars. And not so surprisingly the money starts rolling in.

Officials say 28-year-old Byron Bennett owes more than 14-thousand dollars in back pay and didn't want to cooperate. Bennett goes straight to jail.

The following people also went to jail having run out of time and options.

Anthony Joubert owes 27-thousand dollars.

"Anthony Joubert: You putting me on Channel 7? Lee: Yes, why didn't you pay your child support? Anthony Joubert: Because I didn't feel like it. Lee: Are you going to pay after this? Anthony Joubert: No!"

Jerry Watson owes 15-thousand dollars.

"Lee: Are you going to jail. Jerry Watson: Yes, I am for one night. Lee: What do you think about that? Jerry Watson: I don't think it's right."

Albert Dugas owes 45-hundred dollars.

"Lee: Sir are you going to jail? Albert Dugas: Yes sir. Lee: Why are you going to jail? Albert Dugas: Child support. Lee: Why didn't you pay? Albert Dugas: I don't know. Lee: You don't know?"

Ernest Hill is one of seven who qualify for the work release program. Hill says he is a good father.

"Ernest Hill: This is the first time this has happened. I've been paying... This is the first time. Lee: How much did you owe? Ernest Hill: 11-thousand dollars. Lee: 11-thousand dollars, wow... Was that one payment?"

Hill says he's glad he doesn't have to look over his shoulder anymore and looks to make things right.

"Hey I'm 51 years old and I just got caught on this day right here and I appreciate that. I'm going to be blessed with it right here. God bless all of you, you hear. Lee: Good luck!"

"We will work them... And I think we showed that with the round up. Like I said it would have been easier just to send them to jail, but instead we gave them several different options and it paid off in 17-thousand dollars that is going to families that wouldn't have gone before," said Michiels.

The Office of Family Support was able to clear 32 of the 100 outstanding warrants. Six people went to prison, 7 went to the work release program.

There are also dead beat moms. Though they have list of women who also owe back child support, they were unable to be included in this last roundup because of lack of jail space.

Copyright 2009 KPLC. All rights reserved.