Jeffrey Nichols is king of the deadbeat dads, owing more than a half-million dollars in support for his three children.
He’s tried to hide himself and his money in Florida, Vermont and Canada, and set up a bank account in the Bahamas.
He even denied fathering the daughter and two sons born during the 16 years he lived with his ex-wife.
While there are 7 million cases of parents failing to pay court-ordered child support, Nichols is one of an elite 77 deadbeats whose offenses are so egregious that the federal government has intervened.
He was arrested on a federal warrant last week at his home in Charlotte, Vt. But he was allowed to go free and he’s supposed to bring himself back to Manhattan for a federal court hearing today.
Nichols’ ex-wife, Marilyn Nichols Kane, says his behavior nearly put her on welfare.
“There was a time when I was six months in arrears on rent and he was keeping the cash reimbursements for the children’s medical expenses,” she recalled. “He’d cashed out our life insurance policies, dissipated our retirement funds and taken our car to Canada.”
She is now happily remarried and has a career in real estate. “I feel lucky that I had the strength to go on,” she said.
Nichols, an investment adviser on commodities and precious metals, walked out on her and the children in Manhattan in 1990.
She tracked him to Florida, Ontario, then to Vermont. He had his clients wire payments to a bank account in the Bahamas. And when his second wife filed for divorce, she included an affidavit documenting the lengths he’d gone to to hide income from his first wife.
Nichols’ lawyer, Mark Kaplan, did not return a phone call for comment.
New York officials lacked authority to have him arrested elsewhere. Vermont initiated its own case, but did not get Nichols to pay up.
Suzanne Colt, who handles child support cases for New York City, finally asked the federal government to intervene under the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992. Nichols was charged with crossing state lines to evade child support, which carries a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.
While Colt is glad the feds helped out, she complained that their intervention is “pitifully rare.”
“They should be doing more,” agreed Debbie Kline, regional director for the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support. “It’s about time they begin to recognize that nonpayment of child support is a crime against children.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Andrew Fois says the federal government can’t be expected to take over the tens of thousands of support cases in which a child lives in one state and the parent lives in another.
After Nichols’ arrest, a federal magistrate in Vermont allowed him to go free after posting just $5,000 bond, and Colt is worried that he might flee.
His second wife, who never carried out her threatened divorce, died several weeks ago of cancer. She left behind two adopted children, but Colt does not believe Nichols will stay in Vermont for their sake.
“He may already be in Canada,” she said. “He’s done it before. I’ll be amazed if he’s in court on Monday.”