GREENFIELD — The Hancock County prosecutor’s office has filed a second wave of felony charges against parents who have fallen behind on child support, bringing the total number of criminal cases against support scofflaws to 72.
In the first phase of the effort last year, the office filed 31 cases against those who had at least $10,000 in arrearage. After a second evaluation of the pool of non-custodial parents, the second sweep brought in an additional 41 cases, this time focusing primarily on those with $5,000 or more in arrearage.
The second round of cases, which the office filed between late June and mid-July, represents 63 children and a total of $613,893 in owed support, records show.
What the non-custodial parents, two mothers and 39 fathers,
owe ranges from a few thousand dollars to nearly $60,000, Prosecutor Michael Griffin said. The average is about $15,000 each.
Because some parents have moved out of the county and others out of state, the prosecutor’s office will depend on tips from the public to locate them.
“We need help finding these people,” he said. “We’ve picked up more than two-thirds of the folks we charged last year, so we’ve had good success. We’re down now to tracing the folks who have gone off the grid.”
The majority of the cases filed in the second phase are Class D felony charges of non-support of a dependent child. Ten of the cases were elevated to Class C felonies because the parent accumulated $15,000 or more in arrearage within the past five years.
A Class D felony carries a penalty of up to three years and $10,000 in fines. A Class C felony carries up to eight years and $10,000 in fines.
Shelli Poppino, child support administrator for the prosecutor’s office, said word has spread about the prosecutor’s effort to crack down on those who fail to comply with their court-ordered payment schedule.
“It definitely has increased (parents’) asking, ‘How do I get my ex’s name put in that pool?’” she said.
The third stage of filings will take place in 2013 and consider anyone with an arrearage of $1,000 or more, Griffin said.