Governor Susana Martinez announced today the successful completion of the first phase of the child support Felony Prosecution Pilot Project launched in August. The Felony Prosecution Project seeks the prosecution of the state's worst offenders for the abandonment of a child, which is a fourth degree felony under existing New Mexico law. The maximum penalty for a fourth degree felony is eighteen months of imprisonment or probation.
The project is a partnership between the New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) and the District Attorneys' offices in the 3rd and 9th Judicial Districts, which cover Dona Ana, Curry, and Roosevelt Counties. Phase 1 took place in the 9th Judicial District and was overseen by District Attorney Matt Chandler.
CSED identified 21 cases in the 9th Judicial District for prosecution. District Attorney Matt Chandler's office presented these cases to the sitting Grand Jury, which returned felony indictments against each named defendant. These indictments clear the way for the prosecution of these individuals who collectively owe more than $587,000 in unpaid child support.
"One of the best factors in alleviating childhood poverty is the payment of child support. This is another successful partnership that will help us to ensure that New Mexico's kids are getting the support they need and deserve," said Governor Susana Martinez. "These continued efforts send a strong message to deadbeat parents that they can't hide from their obligations."
"Together, these defendants are alleged to owe over half a million dollars in unpaid child support payments. What makes it a crime is the fact that we have been able to establish through record searches that these defendants have the means and ability to pay their court ordered child support, but simply refuse to do so," said Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler. "We met with one parent that is raising three children and is owed over $100,000 in child support by a father that has the ability to make his payments but would rather invest his money elsewhere. That's not fair and it's not right, and it is time for these defendants to either take financial responsibility for their children or face the legal consequences. Our number one goal in prosecuting these defendants is to obtain restitution for the victims, and seeking prison time will only be a last resort for those defendants that refuse to take any responsibility for their past."
"I want to thank District Attorney Matt Chandler for his extraordinary efforts on the Felony Prosecution Project," said Human Services Department Secretary Sidonie Squier. "Through implementing innovative projects such as this, we are able to make a direct impact on the lives of children in New Mexico by finally getting them the support payments that they are due."
The successful completion of Phase 1 follows on the completion of this year's Child Support Bench Warrant Program. Through an amnesty period and partnering with state and local law enforcement, more than $834,000 was collected for the children of New Mexico. The next phase of the pilot project is currently underway in Dona Ana County.
CSED was recognized earlier this year by the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) in June as the Most Improved State Program in the Country. Programs such as the Bench Warrant Program have helped New Mexico's CSED achieve this status. The overall CSED program ranking has jumped more than 8 spots in the last 3 years as well. New Mexico improved from 45th in the nation to 40th in the nation in Federal Fiscal Year 2011.
For State Fiscal Year 2012, the division collected a record $129.6million, five percent higher than last year's record of $123.5 million. This also marks the fifth straight fiscal year in which the division has collected higher levels of child support payments. The record collections set for the most recent fiscal year were also 16.75 percent higher than the goal set by the Legislative Finance Committee of $111 million.
For a list of successful indictments returned in Roosevelt and Curry Counties, contact Matt Kennicott at the New Mexico Human Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.