MACON, GA (WALB) - Two south Georgians are accused of stealing money meant for children. A Lowndes County man is in federal custody. And a woman has two weeks to turn herself in after a federal indictment charged them with setting up fake businesses to collect child support payments.
Mark and Stephanie Simpson of Lake Park, and Stuart Cole of St. Pete Beach, Florida have been indicted by a grand jury, accused of setting up fraudulent businesses to collect child support payments from non-custodial parents.
It was an elaborate scheme that took place between 2007 and 2009. Officials say the trio used a combination of threats, intimidation, and misrepresentation to get parents to use their services.
"The support is for the children, and the children lose," said attorney Guy Terry, who specializes in Child Support law. He says this is the first time he's ever heard of a fraudulent business set up as a service to provide child support payments.
"The effort they had to go through is impressive. Because they would have had to do all of the leg work to find out who these people were, where do they live, how much is supposed to be paid. It really shows a pretty big scheme here," said Terry.
The business operated under names including Child Support Services of Atlanta, and McCoy and Associates. The victims would pay outrageous fees for their payment services. In all the trio got away with more than $600,000.
Experts say you should avoid using private businesses to make your child support payments. Always go through state agencies, like the Division of Child Support Services in Lowndes County.
"Once the order is obtained then you move forward with paying it through the clerk of court. That gives the parent who's paying the support a record that they can come in if challenged later that this is what I've paid, here's proof," said Terry.
Of course Terry's best advice is to have a private lawyer handle your child support business.
The indictments include mail fraud, wire fraud, extortion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.
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A grand jury has indicted three people they say were in business to defraud victims by convincing them to pay child support payments.
Stuart C. Cole, 58, of St Pete Beach, Florida, Mark C. Simpson, 50, of Lake Park, Georgia, and Stephanie M. Simpson, 30, of Lake Park, Georgia have been indicted.