HARRISBURG, Pa. – A Philadelphia man was forced to pay more than $12,000 in child support for another man's daughter and spent two years in jail for falling behind on payments.
Dauphin County prosecutor Edward M. Marsico Jr. told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg that he is examining the case of Walter Andre Sharpe Jr., who has been unable to recover the money even after establishing that he isn't the girl's father.
The investigation has no specific targets, Marsico said.
Sharpe's troubles began in 2001, when he signed for a certified letter addressed to Andre Sharpe, the girl's father. The letter ordered Andre Sharpe to attend a child support conference in Dauphin County, where the girl's mother lived at the time.
Walter Sharpe, who was already supporting four children from a previous marriage, ignored the letter, and a judge ruled he was the father after neither man showed up. The county family welfare agency then began garnishing Walter Sharpe's wages from his job at a trash-hauling company.
He served four six-month jail terms for not keeping up with support payments between 2001 and 2005, then lost his job. Petitions he filed for DNA testing were opposed by the court's domestic relations officials and denied by the judge.
In May 2007, the paternity order against Walter Sharpe was overturned after the girl's mother and grandmother failed to show up to a court hearing. But the judge ruled in October that Walter Sharpe was not entitled to compensation.
Walter Sharpe and his attorney, Tabetha Tanner, claim his identity was stolen in 2002, when he met with agency officials and provided identification showing he was not the father. Instead, his personal information was entered into the agency's computer records, he said.
Officials in the court's domestic relations office would not respond to the newspaper's questions. They said in court papers that they determined Walter Sharpe was the father "after reasonable investigation."
Andre Sharpe has said he has always supported the girl, who is now living with him in Philadelphia and about to graduate from high school.