NEW YORK -- A man branded the nation’s worst deadbeat dad by federal officials pleaded guilty Thursday to charges he failed to pay more than $1 million in child support after a run from the law that took him around the world and ended with his arrest in Los Angeles.
Robert Sand, 50, was a successful businessman who lived in the suburbs of Long Island east of New York City before disappearing more than 10 years ago. He had been married twice and had three children, including a daughter with his second wife whom he left in 2001.
According to federal investigators, Sand had been under orders to pay child support since 1996, and arrest warrants had been issued for him in 2000, 2002, 2009, and 2010. After fleeing New York for Florida and then Thailand, investigators said, Sand, who had earned $500,000 to $600,000 in the early 1990s, underreported his income to try to dodge child support payments.
He was caught trying to enter the Philippines without proper paperwork last November and then put on a plane to Los Angeles, arrested, and sent to Islip, N.Y., to face trial. With interest and penalties, the amount he owes comes to about $1.2 million.
Sand had topped the nation’s list of deadbeat parents since the Department of Health and Human Services launched it in January 2012. Modeled after the FBI’s most-wanted list, it features mug shots of people accused of being deadbeats and information on their possible whereabouts.
Since the list went up, several people on it have been captured, but none of their debts has topped Sand’s. The most-wanted deadbeat title is now held by Kenneth Johnson, 53, of Tacoma, Wash., who owes more than $259,000 and is believed to have fled the country.
Not just any deadbeat can make the most-wanted list. Among other things, the person must owe more than $5,000 in child support, live in a different state than the child or have fled to another state or country to avoid paying child support.
In a jailhouse interview after his arrest last year, Sand said he wanted to change his ways, the New York Daily News reported. "I want to be a good dad in the future," the Daily News quoted him as saying. It also said he did not expect a lot of sympathy from his ex-wives or anyone else.
In court Thursday, prosecutors and the defense said Sand simply got tired of running after all those years and was ready to pay up. He pleaded guilty to two counts and faces a possible sentence of two years in prison on each when he is sentenced in May.