Cafe owner jailed for keeping child support payments

Woman convicted of altering records after pocketing payments

Posted: Friday, January 14, 2000

A Juneau restaurant owner is in the Lemon Creek Correctional Center after being convicted of falsifying business records of an employee's child support payments.

Phyllis Gilliland, 44, began serving 60 days in jail Tuesday after being sentenced by Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks. Gilliland, a former employee of Heritage Coffee Co., opened Thunder Mountain Cafe in August 1996. The cafe became a popular hangout for Mendenhall Valley coffee enthusiasts.

Gilliland was charged with making false entries in her restaurant's records indicating money deducted from an employee's paycheck to satisfy his child support requirements had been paid to the state Child Support Enforcement Division. Instead, she pocketed the money, officials said.

On Tuesday, Gilliland pleaded no contest to one count of falsifying records, a felony. Eight other counts were dismissed. All charges stemmed from actions taken between November 1997 and October 1998.

Employers guilty of child support payment fraud are rarely jailed, said Larry Persily, deputy commissioner of the Department of Revenue.

``We have filed charges against two employers in the last two years,'' Persily said. ``This is the only one we can think of that got jail time.''

Parents who do not pay child support are more commonly jailed, but the numbers are still low, Persily said. ``You could count them on one hand'' in the last year, he said.

The low numbers are due to a shortage of investigators, not from a lack of candidates, Persily said. CSED has only two child support investigators and one half-time attorney working on criminal cases.

``We have thousands of cases with nonpayment,'' Persily said, ``but we have to pick and choose the most flagrant and blatant ones. We also have to pick the ones we can win - where the parent/employer has resources we can find; when a victory will result in payments.''

The Child Support Enforcement Division has prosecuted more than a dozen cases in the past two years, Persily said, but only a few have resulted in jail time.

Gilliland had a possible longer sentence suspended on the condition that she perform 80 hours of community work service and make restitution to CSED.

The agreement she had with CSED was to pay back $5,984, Assistant District Attorney Dave Brower said. A payment schedule has been worked out.

Thunder Mountain Cafe continues to be open for business.

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