A man on the run for nearly 20 years for failing to pay child support south of the border has been arrested in Alberta after police said he tried to scam a Calgary restaurant owner.
Joseph Stroup, known in Alberta as “Joop Cousteau,” was located in Calgary and returned to the U.S. after he was detained by border officials earlier this month, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
LISTEN: Scott Winograd on helping to catch “wanted deadbeat” Joseph Stroup
The government said his overdue child support in Michigan’s Van Buren County now exceeds US$500,000.
The owner of the Bears Den Restaurant in Calgary, which closed at the end of January, said Stroup had been a regular at his restaurant for several months.
Scott Winograd said in late November, Stroup ordered a cherry Coke and asked for eight maraschino cherries. Later, he pulled out a pit and said he had “broken some of his dental work.”
“That doesn’t happen,” Winograd said.
Maraschino cherries do not usually have pits.
Winograd said Stroup came in the next day with dental forms that “looked like they were downloaded off the internet.”
Winograd said he Googled the name given on the dental forms, which was listed as Joop Cousteau.
The Calgary restaurateur said he found Stroup’s picture on a U.S. government website that listed “wanted deadbeats.” He learned Joop Costeau was an alias for Joseph Stroup.
“You’d think if you’re on the run you’d come up with John Smith,” he said. “Not Joop Cousteau.”
Stroup, now 64, was ordered to pay child support during a 1989 divorce. Investigators say he fled, despite selling an internet business for more than $2 million.
Winograd said he learned the man who went by Joop Cousteau was also believed to be responsible for scamming people in Bragg Creek and in the Cochrane area.
He invited Stroup back to the restaurant in order to confirm he was the same man and then contacted U.S. authorities.
“It was hard enough to make money in the restaurant business as it is,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, my margins are so thin I can’t afford to pay this guy his dental work for a sob story like this.’”
Winograd said he received calls from the FBI, U.S. Marshalls and the Inspector General’s office within half an hour of his call.
Stroup appeared in federal court in Chicago last Friday but will be transferred to Michigan. An indictment was filed in 1998 in federal court in Kalamazoo.
“I’m just glad that he’s not in the area anymore and in a position to screw more people over,” Winograd said.
-With files from Associated Press