Deadbeats Allowed to Keep Lottery Winnings, Audit Says

Parents owe thousands in child support

An audit of Maryland's child support enforcement agency shows that hundreds of lottery winners were allowed to keep their winning despite overdue child support payments.

The audit issued Thursday by the Department of Legislative Services showed the agency did not report more than 600 deadbeat parents to the Maryland Lottery, which would have diverted their winnings into payments. It also found that the agency stopped seizing funds from delinquent parents' bank accounts and issued support checks to dead people.

Maryland's chief auditor, Bruce Meyers, said a sampling of 11 parents owing $244,000 in child support showed they kept $29,100 in lottery winnings. He said it violates state law and shows the enforcement agency isn't doing enough to collect from deadbeat parents.

"They have to check it out," Meyers said. "Some of it was collected, but they could have just done a better job."

The audit found that more than $331,000 in child support payments were made to 576 people 30 days or more after their deaths. Agency officials said most checks were cashed by appropriate people, such as subsequent caregivers. But a sampling of 20 deceased people shows that $152,000 in checks payable to them were cashed by unknown people.

Administration officials said they've requested advice from the Maryland attorney general.

The agency was criticized in the audit for not suspending or revoking state-issued professional licenses from delinquent parents. Auditors found that more than 5,200 licensees owe $47 million in child support and more than half of 20 sampled had not made any recent payments.

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Del. Charles Barkley, a Montgomery County Democrat who worked to pass legislation in 2007 to add lawyers to the list of 16 licenses subject to revocation for unpaid child support.

"It's absurd," Barkley said. "It's not easy to collect the money, but we give them a lot of tools and we expect them to use them. I think with that threat, people do come clean and pay overdue bills."

The study spans March 2004 through August 2007, when unpaid child support in Maryland totaled $1.57 billion.

Written responses in the report said the administration is setting up automated matches with licensing boards and the state lottery.

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