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International Fugitive 'Deadbeat' Dad Captured Thanks to Maraschino Cherries

He owed nearly $560,000 in child support. Too bad he thought maraschino cherries had pits.

by Mayukh Sen
Feb 23 2018, 8:00pm

Photo via Flickr user elizaraxi

Joseph Stroup was once America's most wanted deadbeat dad. He'd been on the lam for the better part of two decades, hiding out in Canada while accruing $559,900 in unpaid child support. At long last, though, Stroup's been captured, thanks to his disastrously ill-advised scheme involving maraschino cherries and their nonexistent pits, the CBC reported on Thursday.

Stroup's troubles began in August of 1989, when the US Department of Health and Human Services ordered Stroup, a Kalamazoo native, to pay $100 a month for child support for his four children. He was able to reduce that to just $14 a month, however, by telling authorities that he was unemployed due to medical reasons.

It wasn’t until 1996 that it became clear that Stroup had been running a “successful internet business” that he’d managed to sell for over $2 million. The court adjusted his child support fees accordingly, yet he still failed to pay up any child support. He hasn't paid a cent, allegedly, since June of 1996. In an attempt to evade an arrest warrant issued in July 1998, Stroup relocated to the Canadian city of Calgary.

In what sounds like a plot line lifted directly from a bargain bin crime novel, Stroup chose to live in Calgary under an assumed identity, changing his name to "Joop Cousteau.” He was a frequent patron of the now-shuttered Bears Den restaurant in Calgary. One night last November, he placed an order for Cherry Coke with eight—yes, eight, you can't make this shit up—maraschino cherries.

Just minutes after receiving the drink, Stroup summoned his waiter over and complained that he’d bitten into a pit, exposing his precious and brittle dental work. As evidence, he held a cherry pit in his palm.

The restaurant’s waitstaff became rather skeptical at this point, for any thinking person knows that maraschino cherries don’t have pits; plus, the pit in his hand looked exactly like one you’d find in an unprocessed cherry, not the bright-red variety dipped in cloying syrup and used as a cocktail garnish. Though the staff didn’t quite buy his ruse, Stroup returned to Bears Den the next day with doctored paperwork he claimed was from his dentist, complete with his name and birthdate.

Scott Winograd, the former co-proprietor and general manager of Bears Den, was seized by anxiety that Stroup could sue him for potential damages.

"The ‘pit’ he showed me was from a regular cherry," Winograd wrote MUNCHIES via email on Friday. "I think he thought that I would just cut him a check and be done with it. I Googled Joop Cousteau and followed the rabbit hole. There was a Facebook page that linked the two names and I recognized the wanted poster."

Stroup, unaware that someone had figured out his sham, returned to the Bears Den for a few more visits before being arrested by Canada Border Service Agency last week. He is now back in the United States.

"Mr. Stroup is currently in US custody and will be transferred to the Western District of Michigan to face charges stemming from his indictment," a spokesperson from the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote MUNCHIES over email on Friday. "The indictment was issued in the Western District of Michigan. He was charged with willful failure to pay court-ordered child support. There is no sentencing date at this time."

Somewhat amazingly, this isn't the first time in recent memory that maraschino cherries have exposed the fumbling ineptitude of criminals. Recall the case of the leaky maraschino cherries that once exposed a cavernous pot farm growing beneath a maraschino cherry factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn in 2015.

Silly Stroup, a victim of his own gastronomic idiocy. Learn the basics of cocktail garnishes before you try to pull off a maraschino-related ruse.