Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lure of Football Tickets Helps Nab Deadbeat Dads

Operation Iron Snare

In football-crazed Alabama, nothing gets the public's attention like the annual Iron Bowl game between the University of Alabama and Auburn University. Officials in Lee County, Alabama, home to Auburn, figured the thought of winning free tickets to the big game would be irresistible to quite a few folks. They figured right.

A sting operation featuring fake Iron Bowl tickets helped the Lee County Sheriff's Office apprehend a dozen individuals with outstanding warrants for unpaid child support. Those arrested owed some $270,000.

It's ironic that unpaid child support would become a headline-making issue here in Alabama because I have been researching what appears to be the worst deadbeat-dad case I've ever encountered. The case in question involves a prominent businessman with ties to Auburn University, and public records indicate that he owes almost as much in unpaid child support and alimony as all of the individuals combined in the football-tickets sting.

We will have much more on that case in upcoming posts. But for now, we have to applaud the ingenuity of the sheriff's office in Lee County. College football practice began last week, and law-enforcement officials decided that "Operation Iron Snare" would coincide with building fever for the coming season. The operation started with letters being mailed to individuals in east Alabama and west Georgia. Here is how the string worked, from a report in the Opelika-Auburn News:

Suspects were told they had won tickets to the 2011 Iron Bowl and that the tickets could be claimed in Opelika, but that winners must bring the letter they were mailed and a photo ID of themselves to pick them up, said LCSO Maj. Tommy Carter. (View the letter here)

More than 140 letters were mailed out, many of which were returned undeliverable based on the last known addresses given by those for whom deputies had arrest warrants, Jones said.

“Everyone on the list we are seeking for unpaid child support is at least $30,000 and up to $75,000 behind in child support payments,” Carter said.

Suspects, at first, seemed to enjoy the festive occasion, which featured balloons, streamers, and video highlights from the 2010 Iron Bowl. But the mood tended to change when hand cuffs came out:

Some of those arrested as part of Iron Snare stopped in on their lunch breaks to claim what they thought were football tickets, only to be handcuffed and escorted out to a waiting bus as tunes like “Walk This Way” and “Another One Bites the Dust” were piped over a sound system.

“Do I still get my tickets?” asked one suspect as he was handcuffed.

Here is video of Operation Iron Snare. It should be noted that this was not all about deadbeat dads. The video reveals at least one deadbeat mom in the crowd:

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