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American fugitive apprehended following dental dispute with Bearspaw restaurateur
Published Thursday, February 22, 2018 4:07PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, February 22, 2018 6:26PM MST
A man deemed the most wanted deadbeat dad in the United States is behind bars in Michigan and awaiting trial after his tall tales, unusual moniker and suspect dental issues raised the suspicions of the owner of a restaurant outside Calgary.
Joseph Stroup, who had been using the pseudonym Joop Cousteau, was arrested in mid-February after spending nearly 20 years on the lam. According to the Office of the Inspector General, the 65-year-old owes more than $560,000 in child support after failing to disclose the profits of a successful internet business he had sold. A warrant for Stroup’s arrest was issued in 1998.
Scott Winograd, the owner of the now defunct Bears Den Restaurant, says he noticed a charming couple who began to make regular appearances at the establishment in the fall of 2017 but his interactions with the pair were limited. An unusual request from one of the customers during a November visit would spark a bizarre series of events that led to Stroup’s arrest.
“One day he came in and ordered a cherry Coke with eight maraschino cherries, very animated that he wanted eight maraschino cherries,” said Winograd.““He ordered this drink and we delivered it to him. Ten minutes after, he called Joe, the server, over and said ‘I bit down on a maraschino cherry pit and I’ve broke some dental work’. He was very adamant that he had $65,000 worth of dental work in his mouth.”
Winograd says the customer produced a pit but staff silently questioned its origin as maraschino cherries are typically pit-free. “The next day he came in and he brought a dental form with him that looked like it was downloaded off the internet and all handwritten of how his dental work had been damaged.”
Confused by the allegations and wanting to protect his business, Winograd searched online for information regarding Joop Cousteau using the name and other details that were included on the dental form.
“I first came across a Facebook page that his son had setup which made the connection that Joop Cousteau was actually Joseph Stroup, wanted in the United States. I clicked on the link on the Facebook page for his most wanted picture and, sure enough, it took me to an official Department of Justice website where he is the most wanted deadbeat dad.”
Winograd says he extended an invitation to Joop Cousteau to dine with him so he could verify in-person that the man with the unusual taste for maraschinos was the same man in the most wanted photograph.
“I studied his nose and hairline and such. I wanted to make sure this was the same guy because, if I was going to call the authorities, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t fingering a good customer,” said Winograd. “He came in and I was talking to him and I was (within a short distance) from him. I studied all his features and I knew within minutes that this was definitely the guy.”
During their time together, the restaurant owner asked questions of Cousteau’s past and was told that the man with the damaged dental work had graduated from Oxford and worked as a surgeon in the United Kingdom before abandoning the medical field to become a vice-president with Google.
“Every story would be more and more embellished and more grandiose,” recalled Winograd. “Just full of crap, this guy, but harmless. You could tell he was just a total narcissist and believed his own lies.”
“I knew definitely this guy’s a grifter and he’s trying to shake me down for money for this supposed pit that he bit down on.”
Winograd notified the Inspector General’s Office of the whereabouts of the man he was certain was Joseph Stroup. “I contact them, left a message. Within an hour, the F.B.I., the U.S. Marshals and the Inspector General all called because this guy was the most wanted deadbeat in America.”
The restaurant owner shared surveillance video as well as descriptions of Cousteau and Cousteau’s vehicle and the phone numbers provided on the dental form with the U.S. authorities.
Last week, Stroup was arrested at an undisclosed location near Calgary and transported to Illinois. He is currently in police custody in Michigan.
“His family that he abandoned, they’ve contacted me and they have closure now on this,” said Winograd. “They’ve been searching for this guy for 20 years.”
“It’s bizarre that I’m in the middle of this. All I did was make a phone call.”
Winograd believes Straub’s poor choice of pseudonym led to his downfall. “There’s not many Joop Cousteau’s in the world. If you’re going to be on the run or on the lam come up with a John Smith.”
With files from CTV’s Alesia Fieldberg