The Investigators: DCFS garnishes wrong person's paycheck for child support

The Investigators: DCFS garnishes wrong person's paycheck for child support

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It sounds like a story some would see on TV, but it's become a Baton Rouge man's real life. He's happily married to the mother of his three kids, yet his paychecks started getting garnished for "child support" for kids Johnathan Smith said he's never even heard of.

Smith has three kids, ages 1, 4, and 6, and he's married to the mother of his three children. He said he does not have any other kids, but in October, his employer received a letter from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). It told his employer to deduct $243.89 every two weeks for child support. The letter is regarding a a person by the name of Johnathan D. Smith.

"My name is Johnathan L. Smith. The name on the case is Johnathan D. Smith," said Smith.

He was shocked when he first saw the $243.89 taken out for child support.

"I did not know what to think at first because I was just like...I went to my wife and I said, 'You're putting me on child support?,'" said Smith.

Kiran: Have you ever paid child support to any child?
Smith: Not until this.
Kiran: So this is all just confusion because of your name?
Smith: Yes.

Smith said he and his wife started making calls and finally tracked it down to DCFS. After showing them his ID and social security, he says an employee there, "She just told me that she did not know how this happened and it would be taken care of. It would not happen again."

So now, DCFS stopped garnishing his paycheck but he has not been able to get his money back. He said DCFS told him his employer still had the money. When he asked his employer, they sent him an email saying DCFS cashed it Oct. 22nd, and included in the email a copy of the check they made out to DCFS for $243.89 and added that it cleared on October 26.

And his problems were far from over. On November 13, he received a court citation from Tangipahoa Parish once again addressed to Johnathan D. Smith.

"They said if I do not come take a blood test on this child, they would start garnishing my check as well," said Smith.

And that same day, he received another court order from Iberia Parish also addressed to Johnathan Smith for a hearing set for January on another child support matter.

"At first, I was like, 'Ok, maybe they made a mistake and I'm going to try to work with them,' but when I started getting another letter, another letter, then another letter, I said, 'Come on y'all'," said Smith. "It got so bad, I was just waiting, waiting at the door for something new every day."

DCFS spent the day looking into the matter and admitted they did make a mistake and said they are working to get Smith's money back to him.  Smith said after the Investigators started asking questions of DCFS, they called him twice telling him they're in the process of clearing his name.

DCFS declined an on-camera interview, but issued a statement:

We appreciate being notified about this issue.  We have researched it and spoken with our client and the issue has been resolved in his favor.  Thank you for helping us to serve Louisiana's residents.  We encourage any parent with child support questions to contact us at 1-888-LAHELPU.

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