WSVN — If a judge orders you to do something, odds are you are gonna pay attention, but a state agency was ordered by a judge to follow his ruling, and they are being accused of ignoring the judge. Can a state agency do that? It’s why one man went on a hunger strike and got the attention of Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Some people call us, some e-mail, and then there is the guy who parked outside the station with a sign to get our attention.

William Villafana: "I have no other recourse, hence I’m on this hunger strike."

William Villafana’s story actually began when he was 16 years old. His 19-year-old girlfriend got pregnant and had a baby.

William Villafana: "We went our separate ways. I joined the Army at 17. I tried to contact her; all my communications were ignored."

William would later travel the world, settling in Peru when he met his wife.

William Villafana: "Yeah, I have a family down in Peru. I have a son, Gianni, 1 year old, Brisa, 2 years old, and my wife Diana. We’ve been together nine years."

William says he didn’t know it, but his former girlfriend sued him for child support years ago. He found out when his child was born in Peru.

William Villafana: "My daughter is born and I go to register her, and they took my passport at the U.S. Embassy in Lima. ‘You have this child support issue, you need to resolve it.’"

Fast forward to now. William took care of the back child support in 2014. At that time, a judge ordered Florida’s Department of Revenue, which regulates child support, to mark him as having paid, so his passport could be returned to him.

William Villafana: "I have a judge’s order directing reinstatement of my passport. The Child Support Enforcement said that the judge has no authority to direct them to give me back my passport."

William was in Peru at the time. Then a relative died, and the U.S. allowed him to come back for the funeral, but without his passport, he can’t return to Peru to be with his wife and children.

William Villafana: "I’m trying to get home to see my kids. I missed my son’s first birthday. He took his first steps; I missed that also."

William contacted every person he thought had some power in Florida, sending e-mails and letters to people like Marco Rubio, even the U.S. Embassy in Peru.

William Villafana: "I’ve been to several politicians, and nobody says that they can help me."

And that’s when he pulled into the Channel 7 parking lot. An American citizen, unable to get a state agency to follow a judge’s order so he can return to Peru to be with his wife and children.

William Villafana: "I’m disgusted, I really am."

Well, Howard, can the Florida Department of Revenue ignore a circuit court judge’s order?

Howard Finkelstein: "No, and if they continue to ignore the order, a judge can hold them in contempt, fine them and even put a state bureaucrat or the head of the agency in jail, but rarely does it come to that, because picking a fight with a judge is not going to turn out well for you."

We contacted Florida’s Department of Revenue, and they moved very quickly. In an e-mail, they told us they had the judge’s order, but had no record of William contacting them so he could get his passport released.

William says he has called the State, and his attorney has contacted them. But no matter; after we called, things changed rapidly.

William Villafana: "I would say, within two hours."

William’s passport was released, and his hunger strike ended.

William Villafana: "Oh I shouted, screamed, ate."

Interviewer: "What was your first meal?"

William Villafana: "McDonald’s. It was the fastest, quickest thing I can get to."

A couple of days later, we saw William via Skype surrounded by his family in Peru.

Villafana’s wife: (in Spanish) Very happy, very happy to have my family united again."

A father at home with his wife and children. Not a bad ending for this Help Me Howard.

Patrick Fraser: "Glad we could get them all back together in Peru. Now, what happened in this case? The Department of Revenue says William never asked them to release his passport. William says, yes he did, and so did his attorney. Bottom line, things probably got lost in the system. Fortunately, we know who to talk to, to resolve problems like this.

Caught in a bureaucracy that has you grounded? Wanna fly away from it? Contact us. Hopefully you’ll give us your stamp of approval, ’cause we’re hungry to help. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
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On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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