MILWAUKEE (WITI) — It seemed like a legitimate business to help parents get child support payments. However, those who set it up had one thing in mind and it wasn't helping parents or children.
"The child is ultimately the one who gets hurt from this," said U.S. Postal Inspector Sheryl Bouer.
Postal inspectors say Stuart Cole and Mark Simpson were more concerned about money than they were about children. The pair 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…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," Bouer said.
Once the parent contacted the company, they would hand over crucial information for the scam.
"The information from the custodial parent about the non-custodial parent — name, D.O.B. ,where they live, their employer," Bouer explained.
The company would then go after the non-custodial parent using threats and intimidation that 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," Bouer said.
They would even take it a step further sometimes and send a letter to the victim's work place.
"Send it to the employer and make that employer deduct money from their paycheck," Bouer said.
Meanwhile, the con-artists would charge both the custodial and non-custodial parent outrageous fees.
"The custodial parent knew that there was a percentage that Child Support Services would typically take, but they did know how much. Typically, it was 33%," said Bouer.
Inspectors say more than 200 victims lost up to $3 million in this scheme. Cole and Simpson were sentenced to more than a year in prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud charges.
Experts say you should avoid using private businesses to make your child support payments — always go through state agencies.