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How CLEAR helped track down a fugitive who owed $63,000 in unpaid child support

Connecting the dots

In one recent case, a noncustodial parent in the Upper Midwest owed $63,000 in back child support. Federal investigators had determined that the man was living in another state and had traveled there to apprehend him. But when they arrived at the address where they thought he was staying, the man was nowhere to be found. Frustrated, the agents called a parent-location official from the originating state to find out if any other information was available that might help them locate the parent.

"Time was of the essence. They had to find him, but they didn’t know where to look," recalled the parent-location officer who took the call.

An experienced CLEAR user, the officer ran a comprehensive report and scanned the results for possible clues to the parent’s whereabouts. With the clock ticking and impatient feds waiting on the line, she searched for something – anything – that might lead investigators in the right direction.

Nothing jumped out at first, but then the officer noticed something.

"I noticed in one of the reports that the man had an adult son who lived in the same town," she says. "And vehicle-registration records indicated that the son owned a distinctive yellow truck with an even more distinctive set of personalized license plates."

Over the phone, the officer read the information about the truck and its registration address directly from CLEAR to the investigators in the field. While she stayed on the line, she listened as federal agents for the Office of the Inspector General pulled up to the son’s house, identified his truck, and knocked on the door. The tip paid off: The man they were looking for was inside the son’s house. The agents promptly arrested him and brought him back to the originating state, where he was prosecuted for "gross child neglect."

"That was a big win for us," the parent-location officer explains. "We didn’t get the $63,000 all at once, but we did get it."

CLEAR provides leads, clues

For the parent-location officers in this particular state, most child support reclamations amount to a few thousand dollars. But with close to 2,000 open cases at any one time, and only three officers investigating them, CLEAR has become an essential tool for them. "Without it, especially those comprehensive reports, there’s no way we’d be able to round up all that information," she insists. With CLEAR, her office is able to close 20 to 30 cases a month. Not all of them involve financial remuneration, but many do; and for the families that need and deserve that money, CLEAR’s capabilities are a necessity.

"Address information is the key for us," the officer explains. "Once we get a verifiable address, we pass it on to the child-custody unit, and they take it from there." Dashboard alerts related to financial activity and arrest and incarceration data are also useful, and in cases where paternity must be established, models of personal records and various social and business interactions can provide leads.

Locating people who do not want to be found can be extremely difficult, however. Since 2009, her office has been tracking a woman who is constantly on the move, and who, to date, has recorded 10 different aliases. "Every time we think we’ve got a bead on her, she disappears again," the officer says. CLEAR provides dashboard alerts any time one of the woman’s aliases registers activity, but she has yet to be taken into custody.

Such cases are the exception, however. More often than not, her office uses CLEAR on a daily basis to track down parents who have skipped out on their responsibilities or to reunite kids caught in the social-service system with their parents. Sometimes, children in the system don’t even know who their parents are or if they are alive – and vice versa. CLEAR helps investigators identify and locate these estranged parties so that law-enforcement personnel can take the next appropriate steps, whatever they may be.

Though her office utilizes other investigative tools, such as Accurint, "CLEAR is the one we use most," she insists. "Not only is CLEAR more cost-effective," she says, "the comprehensive reports in CLEAR give us more information, and the interface is more user-friendly." Also, because she has hundreds of open cases to investigate at any given time, CLEAR helps her manage a higher volume of cases. "The alerts we are able to set up on specific individuals are a great help because with our caseloads, we have a hard time checking on those hard-to-find individuals as much as we would like." With CLEAR operating in the background, she can turn her attention to other cases, confident in the knowledge that nothing will slip through the cracks.

For this officer of the state, CLEAR provides both the tools and peace of mind she needs to do her job effectively. Without it, the gears of justice would grind a little slower, she says, and in some cases might just grind to a halt.

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