Wednesday, February 15, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott Announces Smith County Child Support Roundup

TYLER – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott traveled to Tyler today to recognize Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith for rounding up parents who are neglecting their children by failing to pay child support. The countywide sweep that began at daybreak targeted parents who are wanted for violating court orders requiring the regular payment of child support.

Investigators from the Smith County District Attorney’s Office, as well as the Attorney General’s Fugitive Unit and Child Support Division, partnered with sheriff’s deputies to make the arrests and offer additional assistance.

Indicted for Criminal Nonsupport
Carlos Austin
Carlos Austin
Guillermo Ballesteros
Guillermo Ballesteros
William Barnett
William Barnett
Jason Bass
Jason Bass
James Beggs
James Beggs
Rayann Burton
Rayann Burton
David Emery
David Emery
Robert Jester
Robert Jester
Justin McClelland
Justin McClelland
Henry Walker
Henry Walker
Kerry White
Kerry White

“I applaud Sheriff J.B. Smith for taking a strong stand against parents who neglect their children by failing to pay child support,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Parents have a moral and legal duty to make regular child support payments, and those who shirk their responsibilities will end up behind bars.

Smith County deputies, along with representatives from the Smith County District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office, assembled at 5 a.m. to locate and arrest delinquent parents before they had a chance to leave their homes for the day.

Parents wanted on child support violations can avoid the embarrassment of arrest at their home or place of business by surrendering voluntarily at the Smith County Jail at 206 E. Elm.

Eleven of the targeted parents face felony prosecution for criminal nonsupport by Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham, who obtained the grand jury indictments earlier this month. A criminal nonsupport conviction could result in a sentence of up to two years imprisonment in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

"I am excited to be working in conjunction with the Texas Attorney General's Office in the felony prosecution of those individuals who are not fulfilling their parental obligations to their children,” said District Attorney Bingham. “I hope those who refuse to pay child support get the message loud and clear – if you don't pay your child support, you will be arrested and prosecuted for felony nonsupport."

Parents charged with felony criminal nonsupport are: Carlos Austin; Guillermo Ballesteros; William Tyrone Barnett; Jason Daniel Bass; James William Beggs; Rayann M. Burton; David C. Emery; Robert Jester; Justin McClelland; Henry W. Walker; and Kerry Dewayne White.

In addition to those wanted on felony warrants, other parents on the list have absconded from the Smith County Accountability Program, which District Judge Carole Clark began in March 2002 to require mandatory supervision in lieu of jail time for parents found in contempt-of-court for failing to pay child support. Those parents face up to six months in jail for violating the terms of their probation.

Attorney General Abbott added: “Smith County residents can take pride in knowing their public officials – such as District Attorney Matt Bingham, District Judge Carole Clark, Sheriff J.B. Smith, and Probation Director David Long – are working as a team to hold parents accountable for supporting their children.”

The Attorney General’s Division for Families and Children is directed by state and federal law to assist families who currently receive or have received public assistance and families who request child support services. Services include locating absent parents; establishing paternity for children born to unmarried parents; establishing, enforcing, and modifying child and medical support orders; and collecting and distributing child support payments.

Statewide, child support collected by the Attorney General exceeded $1.8 billion for the state fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2005. The Attorney General’s Smith County child support office collected $25.7 million of that amount.