State Releases New List of 'Deadbeat Dads'
Dec. 05, 1992
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Wayne Michael Cassano Sr. gave his son his name but, since 1984, little else.
The one-time pipefitter and truck driver owes his ex-wife more than $27,000 in support for their three children, placing him fourth on the state's list of worst deadbeat dads. No one knows where he is or what he's doing now.
The dishonor roll from the Department of Social Services is being distributed across Louisiana to draw attention to delinquent child support payers. Sightings already are coming in, said Robert Thompson, assistant director of Support Enforcement Services.
Last year's list helped nab seven men; at least one now is in jail.
Louisiana is among several states that have published such lists. Others include Illinois, Virginia, South Dakota and New Hampshire, where the list includes one mother. Iowa officials seek deadbeat parents with ''wanted'' posters that include mug shots.
In May 1991, the National Council of State Child Support Enforcement Administrators, a professional group, published a national most-wanted list. Heading Louisiana's latest list is Lemuel Hawsey III, a lawyer and computer consultant who owes at least $123,200 to his ex-wife and three children.
Barbara Fontenot, Cassano's ex-wife, said the money isn't the most important thing.
''Wayne Junior is scarred for life,'' she said. ''He feels like he can't really complete his life until he sits down with his daddy and gets an answer: 'Why did you do what you did?' He says 'I know I had a father, why didn't I have a daddy?'''
Wayne Jr., now 19, is the oldest of the three children.
Fontenot, who now is remarried, said Cassano virtually abandoned her and the children after they were separated in 1984. Although he was supposed to pay $375 a month in child support, the most she ever got was about $200, she said.
She hasn't heard from him since he visited the children on Christmas in 1987. As best she knows, ''he kinda stays between Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.''
''He knows how the system works and how long it takes before they start getting close,'' she said. ''He's got it pretty well figured out.''
She had him arrested once, and after that he told her: ''You caught me once. You will never catch me again.''
Fontenot said Cassano often quits his job to keep from being tracked down.
It's not unusual for a man on the list to give up his own income to avoid paying his ex-wife, state officials said.
''The people who are hardest to collect from are the people who have the most aptitude to pay,'' Thompson said. ''It's just because they don't want to, not because they can't. They have a distorted sense of value.''
To make Louisiana's deadbeat dad list, a man must be missing for at least 36 months and Thompson's agency must have already tried conventional means to find him.
Thompson said the agency has about 88,000 collection cases; he estimates that only 25 percent are ''dyed-in-the-wool non-payers.''
The state keeps looking as long as a ex-wife wants.
Fontenot won't give up.
''He's got a moral and legal responsibility, and if he's not going to live up to it, he's going to have to pay the price,'' she said. ''If the price is that he's going to have to hide, and move from pillar to post, that's what he's going to have to do.''