By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — An American eye surgeon who is alleged to be a deadbeat dad who owes $1.5 million to his wife and children has been tracked to Ireland by a California investigar`.
The UN-sponsored New York Convention allows cooperation between police forces in Ireland and America to help trace liable spouses.
Ireland adopted the convention following the passing of the 1994 Maintenance Act as part of the run up to the enactment of divorce legislation.
Criminal Investigator Laura Cleaves of the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office applied to Loughrea Circuit Court in Galway for the enforcement of a maintenance order against William Howard Porter, 53.
A warrant was issued for his arrest and Porter later gave himself up to Killarney, Co. Kerry, and claimed his reputation had been "sabotaged" by the U.S. investigator speaking to the media about the case.
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Cleaves has been on a worldwide hunt for the doctor, who divorced his wife in 1989, to serve enforcement orders against him for alimony payments to support her and their four children.
Cleaves said Porter is an eye surgeon and there was a "great deal of money" involved in the divorce.
There was a substantial maintenance and support order based on what his income was at the time.
"He left the Santa Barbara area, attempted to establish a new practice that evidently did not succeed, and then essentially dropped out of sight," she told RTE.
She said that after a year of receiving no support, his first wife sought the help of the District Attorney’s office, since child-support dodging is a criminal offense in California.
Porter had been traced to Saudi Arabia, where he had worked for several years after leaving America. He had also been found to have taken vacations in Australia, New Zealand and Britain.
Cleaves said she had then checked if he was in Ireland and had received confirmation that he was.
Porter’s second wife has Irish roots and Cleaves is not seeking his extradition or jailing but only wants to ensure he meets the terms of the court support order.
Cleaves said she had also recently enforced a maintenance order against an English father who was living in Santa Barbara and who was failing to support his family.
The government estimates are that about 28 percent of Irish deserting spouses are living and working in either Britain or America.
In Ireland, the state paid £230 million in social welfare allowances to 25,000 deserted wives and 32,000 unmarried mothers last year.
A Department of Social Welfare study found that of 15,000 men traced and investigated up to last year, only 4,000 were able to afford to make a contribution to their deserted families. However, only about 5 percent were doing so.