America’s most delinquent father was ordered Wednesday to serve 18 months in prison for failing to pay more than $74,000 in child support over the last 10 years.
Gregory Morey, 35, of Scottsdale was at the top of a “most wanted” list circulated in May by the National Council of State Child Support Enforcement Administrators. He was taken into custody immediately after being sentenced by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Gottfield.
The coffee shop manager had pleaded guilty to two felony counts of failing to provide child support. He appeared shaken by the prison term, which was ordered despite his pleas for leniency and his renewed pledge to make good on the $66,600 he promised to pay in an Oct. 2 agreement.
Arizona Atty. Gen. Grant Woods, who made a rare court appearance to urge incarceration for Morey, hailed Gottfield’s decision as an important one for the state and the rest of the nation.
“Sentences like this send a message to delinquent fathers that this is taken seriously, that it is a crime and that in the worst of cases they’ll go to prison,” he said.
Records show that as part of a 1981 divorce decree, Morey was ordered to pay $600 a month in child support to help his ex-wife, Susan Aldrich of Phoenix, raise their three children. She never received one dollar of the more than $100,000 in child support, spousal maintenance and interest owed her, court records indicate.
Morey testified Wednesday that he loved his children and knew of his obligations but withheld child support because Aldrich would not grant him visitation. Under cross-examination by Woods, he said that over the years, while Aldrich and his children were on welfare, he bought three new cars and took a vacation to Disneyland and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Morey admitted using a second Social Security number, a move the judge said could only have been an attempt to avoid paying his delinquent support. Morey said he knew he could return to court if he was unhappy with the visitation arrangement, but he said he could not afford an attorney.
Aldrich, 34, said she was happy with Morey’s sentence and is convinced that she will eventually see some of the money due her. Because her children are 12, 15 and 16 years old, she said, most of it will go toward funding their education.