Toronto Star

March 25, 2000

Ohio backs Ontario's pursuit of deadbeat dad

`Never had a case where someone owes so much'

By Patricia Orwen and Dale Brazao
Toronto Star Staff Reporters

The heat is on the deadbeat on both sides of the border.

Ohio officials say they plan to force Blaine Tanner to pay child support, immediately after they were alerted - and embarrassed - by media reports of his luxurious life in a posh Cleveland suburb.

``I've been in this job 14 years, and I've never had a case where someone owes so much,'' said Bob Grano, a government lawyer in Cuyahoga County.

Tanner, 47, owes his three children, who live in Brampton with his ex-wife, more than $500,000 in arrears.

An Ontario judge this week ordered the former Brampton millionaire to pay $1,900 a month on an interim basis until a final ruling is made.

But even before the judge's ruling, lawyers with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office had moved on Tanner, after learning he hadn't paid his kids a penny in nine years.

Tanner was advised this week that the prosecutor's office would begin demanding a portion of his $5,400-a-month salary and sending the money to Ontario for his children, two of whom are disabled.

His Cleveland lawyer has 20 days to file a notice of objection to the county's decision. Grano said the county will also attempt to file the 1991 Ontario court order that ordered Tanner to pay $4,000 monthly.

`We will collect the $1,900 a month'

``We take the issue of child support very seriously down here,'' Grano said. ``We are going to do everything in our power to get the money that is owing to these children.''

Ohio is one of many U.S. states that have signed a reciprocal agreement with Ontario to prevent debtors from fleeing their responsibilities by moving across the border.

``Even if we can't collect the $4,000 a month from the first court order, we will collect the $1,900 a month,'' said Grano, adding that his office was unaware of the Tanner case until The Star, and later the Cleveland Plain Dealer, reported it.

Tanner moved to Ohio after marrying prominent Cleveland civil rights lawyer Ellen Simon in December, 1997.

He kept his new life and new wife a secret from his ex-wife and children.

Tanner returned to Canada last week to hear his Toronto lawyer, Harold Niman, argue that the 1991 order is unenforceable because it is ``contrary to public policy.''

Tanner now says he is willing to pay child support but wants the $500,000 in arrears wiped out. His debt makes him one of the worst of the province's 128,000 deadbeats, who collectively owe their spouses and children more than $1.2 billion.

Justice Jack Belleghem ordered Tanner to start paying $1,900 a month and gave him 10 days to pay his ex-wife $9,740 in arrears.

The matter of whether the 1991 order is enforceable goes back to court in Milton April 26.

During his visit to Canada, Tanner also was slapped with a subpoena from Ontario's Family Responsibility Office to attend a default hearing to explain why he ignored the order to pay support. That hearing is slated for April 28 in Brampton.

Tanner was convicted of tax evasion in 1994 and fraud-related charges in 1975. He declared bankruptcy in 1996 and continued to claim poverty.

But last month, a Toronto Star reporter found him living in a stately Georgian-style house in Shaker Heights, Cleveland's poshest neighbourhood, and driving to his job as a financier in a $50,000 Volvo.

His lifestyle contrasts dramatically with that of his former wife, Pamela Tanner, and their three children, who have been on welfare since 1992, the year Tanner left for England with his girlfriend.

He returned to Canada in 1994 to begin serving a six-month sentence for tax evasion. He was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine or face another six months in jail.

Justice officials say Tanner never paid the $100,000, but they're at a loss to explain why he was not jailed again. Tanner received a pardon from the National Parole Board last June.

U.S. Immigration officials in Cleveland told The Star they have reopened Tanner's file and are checking the information he provided in his application for permanent residency and a work permit.

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