Valentine's Day arrived with handcuffs for a dozen men arrested in a DuPage County sweep targeting "deadbeat" parents, authorities said.
The roundup, dubbed "Operation Love 2," began early Tuesday with teams of law enforcement searching for 43 parents who collectively owe $1.3 million in unpaid child support. By 3 p.m., authorities said, 11 fathers owing a combined $238,000 had been apprehended.
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"Paying court-ordered child support is not an option," said DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin, whose investigators conducted the sweep with the sheriff's office and county children's center. "In these difficult economic times, single-parent families rely on that income to provide even the basic necessities for their children. My office is 100 percent committed to making sure that delinquent parents live up to their obligations and pay their child support."
The sweep mirrored a roundup launched last Valentine's Day that led to the arrests of 15 parents owing a combined $660,000.
Arrested this year were Miguel Restrepo of Lombard, Eugene Bresley of Elmhurst, Matthew Brown of Elmhurst, Roberto Davila of Addison, Derik Denton of Downers Grove, Dennis MacLennan of Aurora, Rene Mendoza of Wood Dale, John Otero of Villa Park, Kevin Stearns of Addison, Arturo Villafuerte of Villa Park and Steven Schanz of Elmhurst.
Others were being sought in West Chicago, Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream, Bloomingdale and Warrenville, among other municipalities in and around DuPage County.
Prosecutors said the fathers were not charged criminally but were arrested for failing to meet court orders. Any money posted as bail will be applied to their child-support debts.
"The idea is not to incarcerate people; it's to get them to start paying," state's attorney spokesman Paul Darrah said.
Each year, the DuPage County Child Support Enforcement Program works with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to collect millions in child support. In 2011, the agencies collected $42 million, according to the state's attorney's office.
"Parents have a duty and responsibility to take care of their children," Sheriff John Zaruba said in a news release. "They have obligations to fulfill, just like every parent does, but when they are not responsible, there have to be repercussions."
People needing child-support enforcement services should call the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services' Child Support Call Center at (800) 447-4278, authorities said.