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Scammers steal child support payments

Inspector: 'The child is ultimately the one who gets hurt '

It seemed like a legitimate business by promising to collect child support payments from a non-custodial parent. But, the con-artists who set up the business had only one thing in mind, and it wasn't helping children.

"The child is ultimately the one who gets hurt from this," said U.S. Postal Inspector Sheryl Bouer.

Investigators say Stuart Cole and Mark Simpson were more concerned about money than they were about children.  The duo set up various businesses including "Child Support Services" to collect child support payments and keep the money for themselves.

"Their business would come up first in an Internet search," explained Bouer. "The custodial parent might reach out to them thinking they are a government agency, the majority of the time that is what they actually believed."

The crucial step in this scam was the information they were able to get.

"Get the information from the custodial parent about the non-custodial parent. Name, DOB ,where they live, their employer," said Bouer.

The group would then go after the non-custodial parent using threat and intimidation.  The scheme often started with a letter.

"If you would like this to go away you can contact us at the number provided. That was the first mailing, if they didn't get a response to that then they would tell them that your drivers license was suspended, then the next one would say an arrest warrant has been issued," explained Bouer.

Sometimes they would send a letter to the person's workplace.

"Send it to the employer and make that employer deduct money from their paycheck," Bouer added.

Meanwhile, Cole and Simpson would charge both the custodial and non-custodial parent outrageous fees.

Bouwer said, "The custodial parent knew that there was a percentage that Child Support Services would typically take but they did no how much. Typically, it was 33%."

Inspectors say more than 200 victims lost between $2.5 million and $3 million in this scheme.  Cole and Simpson were finally sentenced to more than a year in prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud charges.

Meantime, inspectors advice you read through all correspondence and don't immediately panic.

"It's important to read all of the fine print. In these contracts at the very end in very fine print that this was a private child collecting," warned Bouer.

Experts also say you should avoid using private businesses to make your child support payments. Always go through state agencies.