Calgary

Most wanted deadbeat dad in U.S. gets 24 months in jail after arrest near Calgary

A man who was dubbed the most wanted deadbeat dad in the U.S. has been sentenced to two years in jail months after he was arrested near Calgary with the help of a restaurateur who had a hunch.

Joseph Stroup, who went by Joop Cousteau, owed $560K in child support and was on the run for 20 years

Joseph Stroup, centre, who used the name Joop Cousteau, was arrested in Calgary in February and returned to the U.S. Owing $560,000 US in child support, Stroup was dubbed the most wanted deadbeat dad in America. (Submitted by Scott Winograd)

A man who was dubbed the most wanted deadbeat dad in the U.S. has been sentenced to two years in jail months after he was arrested near Calgary with the help of a restaurateur who acted on a hunch.

Joseph Stroup, who had been living under the name Joop Cousteau, was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency and transported to the United States on Feb. 15.

Joseph Stroup, who had been living under the name Joop Cousteau, was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency and transported to the United States on Feb. 15. (Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Authorities were tipped off by the co-proprietor of the Bears Den restaurant west of Calgary, who found his picture on a U.S. government website listing "wanted deadbeats."

A clerk with the  U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Mich., told CBC News that Joseph Stroup (a.k.a. Joop Cousteau) was sentenced on Aug. 20 to 24 months in jail and ordered to pay $533,624.91 in restitution.

Stroup, 64, had been ordered to pay child support during a 1989 divorce. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, Stroup owed more than $560,000 in child support.

Investigators say he fled, despite selling an internet business for more than $2 million.

He had been on the run ever since.

Living in the Calgary area, Stroup had become somewhat of a regular at the Bears Den — a now-closed restaurant just outside Calgary's city limits to the northwest in the community of Bearspaw — and was well liked by the staff, said Scott Winograd, the restaurant's former general manager and co-proprietor.

But that changed in November following an unusual request by Stroup.

Surveillance footage shows Stroup walking into the Bears Den restaurant. (Submitted by Scott Winograd)

"One day out of the blue, he ordered a Cherry Coke and he wanted eight maraschino cherries in it, which is just bizarre. That just doesn't happen," said Winograd.

But staff put the drink together and served it to Stroup.

"About a minute later, he calls the server over and he's clutching his jaw and says, 'I bit into a pit and broke some dental work,' and he holds this pit up," said Winograd.

Staff at the restaurant became suspicious as maraschino cherries generally don't have pits.

"He held up this pit that looked like a regular cherry," said Winograd.

The next day, the man came back with handwritten forms from a dental office describing his alleged injuries.

Scott Winograd, former general manager and co-proprietor of the Bears Den restaurant just outside Calgary, helped lead U.S. authorities to Stroup. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Worried about being sued for damages, Winograd said he typed the man's name into Google, which led him to a Facebook page started by one of Stroup's sons.

"I started following some links and got to the Department of Justice [website], and sure enough, he was the No. 1 most wanted deadbeat dad, and the picture was him from 20 years ago, a spitting image. It was absolutely him," he said.

"Nothing had changed, just older, hair loss, glasses now, but I was sure it was him."

Winograd then telephoned Stroup under the guise of wanting to settle the dental complaint and invited him to come to the restaurant for dinner.

"Sure enough, he comes in a day or two later, and I talked to him," he said. "I wanted to be sure, I didn't want to say, 'this might be the guy, or it might not be.'"

Once he felt sure, Winograd jotted down the licence plate on Stroup's car and called RCMP the next day.

"They didn't think they could really do anything, because they said he's not wanted here, he's wanted in the United States, and I was quite surprised by that," he said.

Contacted U.S. authorities

Winograd then contacted the Inspector General's office in the United States.

"Within an hour I had the FBI, U.S. Marshals and the office of the Inspector General calling, wanting more information, because they really wanted this guy," he said.

Stroup was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency on Feb. 1 and taken back to the U.S. to face charges.


With files from Associated Press