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How Cherries Took Down America's Most Wanted 'Deadbeat Dad'

The scammer, who dodged child support for two decades, was just sentenced to two years in prison.

by Mack Lamoureux
Aug 23 2018, 6:11pm

Joseph Stroup. Photo via Office of the Inspector's General. 

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

America's most wanted deadbeat dad, who owed more than half a million dollars in child support, just got two years behind bars for his intense deadbeatedness.

For years, Joseph Stroup was the first name featured on an American government website showcasing the country’s top deadbeats dads—yes, this does exist. His time on the run came to an end thanks to maraschino cherries and a Calgary restaurateur who was willing to fall down an online rabbit hole. After a failed scam involving too many cherries, Stroup was sentenced to 24 months in prison on Monday and ordered to give restitution for the child support he failed to pay.

Stroup’s saga starts in the 80s, when the father of four was initially ordered to pay $100 a month in child support. That was too much, he said, arguing that he suffered from a medical disability. The $100 was subsequently dropped to $14. But it turns out America’s most deadbeat dad was a liar and seven years later, in 1996, the courts found out that Stroup was “operating a successful Internet business, which he ultimately sold for more than $2 million.”

With this knowledge in mind, the government adjusted the amount he should pay and, ever since then, Stroup hasn’t paid a cent. On the date of his capture, the government said that he owed $559,900—more than double what the next top deadbeat dad owes.

Stroup, attempting to run from an arrest warrant issued in 1998, made his way to Calgary where he assumed the pseudonym of, and I’m not shitting you here, Joop Cousteau. Here, Stroup, using his alias, seemingly kept up his sleazy ways and went about scamming nice Albertans. This lasted for decades, until earlier this year, when his luck ran out as he attempted to scam a restaurant in Calgary.

Stroup/Cousteau was a frequent guest at the Bears Den, a now-closed restaurant in north Calgary. One day, in early 2018, he ordered a cherry coke with eight cherries—which, I just want to state for the record, is too many cherries for any drink. After receiving his coke, Stroup complained to his waitress that he chipped his tooth on one of the cherries’ pits and showed them a pit to prove it. The next day, he showed up with some dental paperwork to present to the Scott Winograd, the then general manager, hoping for a payout.

A screenshot of Stroup on the US government's Most Wanted Deadbeats site.

The thing is maraschino cherries don’t, you know… have pits.

"The ‘pit’ he showed me was from a regular cherry," Winograd wrote in an email to MUNCHIES shortly after Stroup’s arrest. "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."

Winograd spoke with Stroup a couple more times to make sure it was him and then he contacted the authorities. On February 1, Canada Border Services Agency arrested the man and brought him back to the US to face the charges. It’s alleged that Stroup was scamming people around Southern Alberta for some time.

To add a cherry on top of Stroup’s sentencing, the judge also ordered him to pay $533,624 in restitution.

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