America’s Most Wanted Deadbeat Dad Was Caught After A Dispute Involving Maraschino Cherries

The story you are about to hear is absolutely, 100 percent bonkers. It involves the alias "Joop Cousteau," more than half a million dollars, Fargo, and a questionable cherry pit. It begins and ends with a man whose actual name is Joseph Stroup, aka "America's most wanted deadbeat dad," who was recently detained in Bearspaw, Alberta, by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and transported back to the U.S., as the CBC reported. He is facing charges of violating child support, and, according to Office of Inspector General (OIG), owes $559,900 in arrears. But it's how officials got wind of Stroup that truly makes this tale... interesting. (Hint: it involves eight maraschino cherries.)

First, some background on the whole "deadbeat" part: According to Stroup's page on the OIG website, he was ordered way back in 1989 to pay $100 per month for his four children. After he told the court he was "unemployed and medically unable to work," that $100 per month was slashed to $14 per month. Nearly 10 years later, though, "the court learned that Stroup was operating a successful Internet [sic] business, which he ultimately sold for more than $2 million," OIG reported.

Steve Warren, a special agent at the Detroit field office of the Inspector General, told the Calgary Herald, "At some point, he decided not to pay anymore and he left the state." CBC reported that the court, after learning about his business, had modified his child support order to reflect his actual income, but Stroup stopped paying, earning himself an arrest warrant issued in 1998. "The amount that he owed met the threshold when it gets elevated to the federal level," Warren told the Calgary Herald.

Stroup dropped off the map. "At the time, they did everything they could to locate him," Warren explained. "They weren't able to."

Fast-forward 20 years, where, at the now-closed restaurant Bears Den, which, fun fact, was featured in Fargo, Stroup, now going by the name Joop Cousteau, "had become somewhat of a regular," CBC reported. He was "well liked by the staff," and the restaurant's former general manager and co-proprietor Scott Winograd told CBC that he was "[j]ust over the top charming."

Eight maraschino cherries, however, heralded the end of Stroup's friendly relationship with Bears Den.

"One day out of the blue, he ordered a Cherry Coke and he wanted eight maraschino cherries in it, which is just bizarre," Winograd told CBC. "That just doesn't happen."

Bears Den staff made and served Stroup the drink to his specifications, but "[a]bout a minute later, he calls the server over and he's clutching his jaw and says, 'I bit into a pit and broke some dental work,' and he holds this pit up," Winograd recounted. This tripped staff members' B.S. meters, "as maraschino cherries generally don't have pits." Winograd added that the pit "looked like a regular cherry."

The day after the pit incident, Stroup reportedly returned to Bears Den with handwritten forms he claimed were from a dental office. Winograd told CBC he suspected Stroup's behavior was the prelude to an incoming lawsuit, so he Googled the name on the forms and found a Facebook page apparently started by one of Stroup's sons.

"I started following some links and got to the Department of Justice [website], and sure enough, he was the No. 1 most wanted deadbeat dad, and the picture was him from 20 years ago, a spitting image," Winograd told CBC. "It was absolutely him."

After performing a little more detective work — inviting Stroup back to Bears Den for a dinner to be sure Stroup and "Joop" were the same person — he called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). But the RCMP told Winograd something that surprised him: "They didn't think they could do anything because they said he's not wanted here, he's wanted in the United States," Winograd said.

He took his information to U.S. authorities instead. "Within an hour I had the FBI, U.S. Marshals and the office of the inspector general calling, wanting more information, because they really wanted this guy," he told CBC.

Stroup was detained, and remains in custody, according to CBC. Winograd says alerting authorities about Stroup was "the right thing to do" and that he "[hopes] most people would do the same thing."

It appears that, like Stroup's downfall drink, justice has been served. With eight cherries on top.