WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- No additional jail time for the first of three parents to be prosecuted criminally in Winnebago County for owing thousands of dollars in child support, but he now has a felony conviction on his record.
Stephen Witkus just pled guilty to failure to pay child support. He already served less than six months in jail and was sentenced to two years probation. Witkus must now pay $150 a month in child support, even if he doesn't have a job. If he fails to do so, he could head back to jail. Two other men, Jaime Farley and David Spickler, could face the same fate.
"We want individuals’ goal to be to pay the child support they owe. Your goal shouldn't be getting a felony conviction and having the criminal justice system force you to do what you should realize is an obligation," says Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato.
One local mom whose ex is one of the other two men says she thinks this punishment sends a clear message to pay up.
“If it was me, I wouldn't want to carry that felony charge for me and my business,” says Nicole, who asked we not use her last name.
She says her ex owes more than $20,000, a debt she fears might never get paid.
"My case is the first to be approved in 20 years to be investigated like this and I was just ecstatic, my jaw dropped."
Nicole says she's hopeful her case will end quickly and other parents like her can benefit from this crackdown.
For a deadbeat parent to face criminal charges, they have to meet certain criteria. They have to either owe more than 20 thousand dollars of have failed to pay child support in more than a year.
These three arrests were made in June. Since then, no one else has been charged criminally for owing child support. These investigations are a joint effort between the Winnebago County State's Attorney and the Illinois Attorney General.