An anonymous phone tip to the Carroll Sheriff's Department led to the arrest of George C. Smith III in Florida two weeks ago.
Smith, charged with being more than $12,700 behind in court-ordered child support payments, was arrested by Hillsborough County sheriff's deputiesat his Tampa apartment in late January after a two-year attempt to find him.
Until his Maryland homecoming -- courtesy of two Carroll County sheriff's deputies -- Sunday afternoon, the 33-year-old father of two remained Carroll's sole representative on the state's "most-wanted fathers" list, a compilation of men accused of being far behind in their child-support payments.
Smith was placed on the seventh such list in the most-wanted program's two-year history in October 1990, almost three months after he was charged by the county State's Attorney'sOffice with neglecting to provide for his two minor children.
"People on that list are far behind in their payments, and they're hard to find," said Clarence Brown, a spokesman for the state Department of Human Resources, which publishes the list.
Smith had been elusive for years, according to police and court records.
In the misdemeanor non-support charges filed in July 1990, Smith was said to have stopped making his $85-a-week payments to his former wife on Dec. 26, 1989. Before that, the amount was taken out of his $6.50-an-hour paycheck at a Baltimore hotel, after Carroll Circuit Court issued a lien.
Since at least 1987, Smith had several failure-to-appear charges in hearings for the child support and violation of probation in drug possession convictions, which led to the issuance of at least two bench warrants by late 1990.
Sheriff's officials from Carroll and Baltimore -- where Smith lived until moving to Florida a year ago -- couldn't find him to serve summonses or arrest warrants.
It wasn't until Col. Charles Fowler of the Carroll Sheriff's Department answered a telephone call that a clue to Smith's whereabouts surfaced.
"I learned that he had been arrested for driving under the influence in Florida," Fowler said yesterday. "So I called and checked with their motor vehicles people down there, and they ended up having an address on him."
Fowler sent a fax copy of the warrant to the Hillsboroughsheriff. Within 10 hours, Smith was in jail, Fowler said.
Smith was arrested farther from Maryland than any previous most-wanted person, state officials say.
Smith, who is in the Carroll County Detention Center on $25,000 full bond, was escorted from Tampa to Baltimore-Washington International Airport by Carroll Sheriff's Cpl. Brett Fleagle and Deputy Chuck Paulson. The trip cost the State's Attorney's Office about $2,300.
Smith moved to Florida last year, he said, to be closer to his parents. He said he was earning no more than $5 an hour in part-time custodial jobs.
His is one of more than 2,480 court-ordered child support cases in Carroll and 260,000 statewide. He is to appear on the non-support charge on April 1.