Miccosukee Tribe Forced to Disclose Financial Records to IRS

ICTMN Staff
8/4/11

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is collecting the Miccosukee Tribe of Indian's financial records from Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Wachovia and American Express, as ordered by U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold, reported the American Indian Report.

The probe involves the tribe, which operates Miccosukee Resort & Gaming in Miami, Florida, allegedly failing to report gaming income and withholding millions of dollars in taxes distributed annually to the 600 tribal members between 2006 and 2009, reported the Associated Press.

Attorneys for the Miccosukee Tribe have accused the IRS of "abuse in authority," claiming the IRS is imposing on their tribal sovereignty. But Gold denied numerous attempts by the Miccosukees to block the IRS from obtaining financial records, writing, "[T]he Miccosukee Tribe is attempting to use tribal sovereign immunity as a shield to protect a limited class of records from the scrutiny of the United States. This it may not do," reported AOL Daily Finance.

A press release issued by Miami-Dade lawyer Ramon M. Rodriguez stated that Gold's ruling will provide insight into the tribe’s suspicious financial dealings and casino revenues. “The financial consequences could prove to be enormous and the legal precedence ground breaking,” wrote Rodriguez, who represents the plaintiffs in a case concerning a 1998 head-on collision car accident near the Miccosukee Reservation in Miami.

The incident killed Gloria Liliana Bermudez and injured her husband, Carlos Bermudez, and their infant son Matthew. According to Rodriguez, Miccosukee tribal member Tammy Gwen Billie, who was intoxicated, drove toward incoming traffic, resulting in a head-on collision with Bermudez's vehicle.

Billie plead guilty to vehicular homicide, and in July 2009, a jury awarded the Bermudez family $3,177,000 in damages that have been found “uncollectible.” But as members of the Miccosukee Tribe, the defendants are potentially receiving as much as $160,000 a year in per cap payments, reported the American Indian Report.

On July 21, 2011, a Miami County judge ordered sanctions against Billie, her father and their Miami lawyer Michael R. Tein and the Coconut Grove, Florida-based law firm Lewis Tein, for abuse of the discovery process during the post-judgment stage of the case. “The IRS is able to get financial records that my clients have been waiting for,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “The tribe owes a great deal of money, and they’ve been using Wall Street firms to hide their wealth. It’s been a financial hide and seek that would make Swiss banks proud.”

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