14 parents arrested in 'deadbeat' sweep


In what has become an annual crackdown on "deadbeat" parents, county sheriff's deputies arrested 13 people over the weekend for failure to pay court-ordered child support.

The second installation, dubbed Operation Scrooge II, was conducted for five hours Sunday.

Two teams of eight deputies each knocked on more than 30 doors, netting the 11 men and two women who were served with warrants issued either because they fell behind in support payments or failed to appear at hearings to set payments, said Arthur G. Ueberroth III, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

This year's effort was a bit more straightforward than the first Operation Scrooge, in which deputies sent letters to more than 500 delinquent parents promising thousands of dollars in a payment from a class-action suit. Twenty-eight people were arrested when they came to the Circuit Courthouse to pick up their checks.

Operation Scrooge II will continue through Christmas Eve, and sheriff's deputies expect the number of warrants served to increase. Yesterday morning, one more parent was arrested, bringing the total to 14.

This year, the county will receive $160 for each warrant served -- $2,240 has been collected so far -- money that will go into the general operating fund. The money comes from a $326,667 grant the sheriff's office received from the federal government to assist in arresting deadbeat parents.

Five of the deputies working the operation were paid overtime totaling $500. "It cost $500 in overtime to put over $2,000 in the county coffers," Mr. Ueberroth said.

When the parents go before a judge for a hearing, they will have the option of posting bond or paying $300 cash, which will be turned over to an escrow account operated by the state's attorney's domestic relations unit. The money will then be turned over to the families entitled to it, Mr. Ueberroth said.

A judge could order a parent to a county program started in February that puts him or her to work or in job training. Half of the salary such a parent earned would go toward support payments.

The program was devised after a Circuit Court judge freed 58 men last December from the county Detention Center.

Judge Bruce C. Williams said the fathers had been jailed illegally because they had not been sufficiently informed of their right to counsel and because some judges set payment figures as requirements for the fathers' release that were excessively high and were not based on their ability to pay.

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