DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin marked Valentine's Day not with sending candies and flowers, but by deploying teams of investigators and sheriff’s deputies to round up deadbeat dads.
Speaking at a Monday afternoon press conference, Berlin announced Operation Love, an effort to apprehend some of the biggest deadbeat dads in DuPage County. The operation is a joint effort between Berlin’s office and the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office, targeting 42 deadbeats who owe more than $2 million in unpaid child support. While he spoke about the efforts to arrest these parents, Berlin stood next to a display showing photos of the 32 most egregious deadbeats owing nearly $1.5 million, including one Chicago man who owes more than $219,000.
“We are one hundred percent committed to enforcing court-ordered child support payments,” Berlin said.
Unpaid child support is a national problem, Berlin said, with more than $34 billion owed across the United States. Of those parents who should receive child support, Berlin said 25 percent report receiving no court-ordered payments. He said from 2009-2010 DuPage officials collected $40 million in overdue child support payments, citing the DuPage County Child Support Enforcement Program as one of the most successful in Illinois.
Berlin said his office is dedicated to making sure parents meet their obligations of taking care of their children.
“These child support payments are not optional. They were ordered by the court, and we intend to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that parents who willfully refuse to support their children are held responsible,” he said.
The majority of the deadbeat parents live in the county, however Berlin said investigators are seeking fugitives in Cook County, Will County and other parts of the state. Included in the photo display were several deadbeats from villages with a Patch.com outlet, including Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, Elmhurst, Downers Grove, Lisle and La Grange. They include Mike Garside of La Grange who owes $49,000; Brian Conrad of Wheaton who owes $53,000; Alec Lehman of Glen Ellyn who owes $17,000; Roland Graf of Downers Grove who owes $21,000 and Robert Scudder of Glen Ellyn who owes $66,000. Berlin said it takes many years of neglecting obligations to accrue this kind of debt.
Berlin said by the time Monday's press conference started, investigators had arrested six deadbeats who owed a combined $208,521. Norm Hall, one of the investigators, said the men were arrested at their homes in the morning. Berlin said the bonds on the men were full cash bonds. The money from any bond payout would be applied toward the debt each one owes. Berlin said his office is more interested in seeking the money than in jail time for the deadbeats.
“If they’re in prison then there’s no way they can pay the money they owe,” he said.
While the men in the display each owe tens of thousands of dollars, Berlin said there was not a dollar amount attached to the term deadbeat. He said the courts decide on who is a deadbeat on a case-by-case basis.
As the economy has worsened Berlin said it is essential that parents pay their obligations to support their children.
“Paying child support is not an option. By shirking their responsibility these delinquent parents place a tremendous burden on society and the children’s custodial parent to provide even the basic necessities for the children such as food, clothing and a place to live.”
Berlin said the teams will continue to search for the remaining 36 deadbeats on their most-wanted list.