I-Team 10 Investigation: "Chasing down child support" total for June is more than $2.5 million | News
I-Team10 is "Chasing down child support." Wait until you hear the total amount of child support owed through warrants issued in just the month of June.
I-Team10 tracked down one father that -- at one point last year -- owed more than $130,000. He was just one of the fathers I-Team10 paid a visit to.
For several days we went door to door looking for these delinquent parents.
We finally got something at the listed address of one parent in Gates. But look and listen to what happens next.
Ralph Cassotta: How ya doin?
Brean: Hi. Are you Ralph?
Cassotta: What's up?
Brean: I'm Berkeley Brean from News10NBC.
Cassotta: What's going on?
Brean: Well we just wanted to come by and find out why you owe $20,000 in child support.
Cassotta: Oh. Well... he's not here right now.
Brean: Who's not here?
Click here to watch the raw video of us trying to talk to Ralph Cassotta
The state tax warrant filed against Ralph Cassotta shows he owes $19,489.25.
Last year, it was $134,721.89.
Our presence attracted his neighbor.
Cassotta neighbor: Is everything okay?
Brean: Yeah well we wanted to talk to him. He owes a pretty hefty chunk in child support and we were talking to guys that owe money in child support and then he left.
Neighbor: I don't think he's be too interested.
Brean: No? Why not?
Neighbor: I don't think he wants his face, you know what I mean, on camera.
Despite the amount of money owed, Cassotta is not the most delinquent.
We found fathers that as of June owed $32,000, $46,000 and $55,000.
None of them lived at the address listed on the warrants.
How we investigated
I-Team10 went through every state tax warrant filed for child support in monroe county in June.
This is the stack of warrants for every parent that owes more than $5,000.
If we printed off every single warrant the stack would look like this.
And when we totaled the amount of tax warrant money owed in child support -- just for June -- it came out to be more than $2.5 million.
"Believe me, I can't tell you, but I know people who owe half a million dollars," said Sherri Wood, manager of Monroe County's Child Support Collection Unit.
She says one of the reasons these numbers can get so high is that parents cut off-the-record deals with each other to miss a payment or stop paying because they don't have money.
"But they never went back to court to change the obligation so every month, just like a taxi meter. $5,000. $10,000. And all of a sudden in a year they owe $60,000. And in 10 years they owe $600,000."
But going to court did not seem to help this father.
Father's who owe more than $20,000
Brean: I'm looking for Norman Joyner.
Norman Joyner Jr.: Speaking.
We showed him the tax warrant that says he owes $20,000 to his three grown children.
Brean: Is there any particular reason why you couldn't pay it on time?
Joyner: I wasn't working. I wasn't working, that's all.
Brean: Did you say that to anybody? Explain that?
Joyner: Of course I did, said it to the courts but they don't want to hear that. They want to know where your money is.
A similar thing happened to Charles Murray. The June tax warrant says he owes $24,000.
"It's called poverty. I'm trying to tell you I can only afford what I can afford," Murray said outside the home he lives in. "Can you afford $225 a week? I mean I don't know. Maybe you make good money. $225 is crushing me."
In fact -- according to the county -- most of the parents who owe this kind of money live below the poverty line.
"Their incomes are between $6,000 and $15,000 a year. They're not really dead beats. They're, in the federal jargon, dead broke," Sherri Wood said.
Norman Joyner Jr. says he has a relationship with his children. He says he's on disability and he says the state takes out $290 a month to pay the money he owes.
At $20,000, that could take a long time.
Brean: $20,000 is a lot of money to owe kids.
Brean: You feel bad about that?
Joyner: Of course I do. I'm a father, of course I do.
Tracking the money
A number of the parents who owe money like this are off the grid, so to speak. They have jobs that pay under the table, they don't own property or they don't renew their driver's license.
It's becoming much easier for the county to collect from parents on the grid because as soon as they file taxes or get hired their name is run against a child support database. If their name gets a hit, the county can garnish the money.
For example -- 20 years ago the county collected $6 million in child support.
This year -- that number could reach $80 million.
A couple of things you should know
If you are a parent in this situation there are ways to reduce the amount of money you're ordered to pay if you can't afford it. But that has to be done through the proper legal channels.
And, according to the county, the state or county cannot collect child support directly from parent's public assistance. That way tax payers are not ultimately paying the support of a delinquent parent.
But the value of the state tax warrant is that if the delinquent parent should ever buy a car, win the lottery or apply to get social security, the state can get that money and get it back to the children, no matter how old they are.