Cobell Payments Being Sent to Wrong Addresses; Special Master Appointed

Rob Capriccioso
12/21/12

 

Reports are surfacing of problems being experienced by some Cobell class members who say that the federal government does not have the correct addresses to send their settlement checks.

Indian appeals of the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement concluded last month, so initial so-called stage 1 checks of $1,000 each for individual class members were supposed to be delivered by Christmas, government officials and Cobell lawyers have said. Stage 2 payments are supposed to go out at a later date.

But it has not been a smooth process for some of the thousands of class members.

“I was alarmed to learn today that the Bureau of Indian Affairs [BIA] has sent 6 year-old address information to the Garden City, New Jersey court-appointed group that is responsible for disbursing the Cobell Indian trust settlement funds,” says Robin Kickingbird, a Kiowa citizen of Norman, Oklahoma.

“I never lived at the old address they had on file. This is my brother's address. I inherited my trust land from my father, who passed away in 2005.”

Kickingbird says that she has received mail concerning her Individual Indian Money account from the Kiowa Agency on a regular basis with no problem, and she regularly receives mail from the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians in Albuquerque; deposit notifications from the Office of Trust Funds Management; and she has received correspondence from the Anadarko Area Office and Office of Hearings and Appeals all without issue over the last 6 years.

“I don't know how on earth the BIA managed to pull this one address where I never lived to give to the Garden City group,” Kickingbird says, adding that she hopes she has gotten the problem sorted out so that her check will be correctly delivered soon.

There is a larger problem here that Kickingbird finds problematic beyond her own case: “It is just so ironic that BIA is bungling a payment for a lawsuit that was about their bungling and mismanagement.”

Beyond Kickingbird, other Indian class members have said they sent in notarized letters stating their current addresses, but their checks have still reportedly been sent to wrong addresses. Still others have been told they do not have accounts, despite paperwork of their own that indicates otherwise.

To work on solving such problems, Kickingbird suggests that all Indians who are concerned about Cobell payments to directly call the Garden City Group at 1-800-961-6109 toll free, or e-mail info@IndianTrust.com, to be sure that their correct addresses are listed and that the money is being sent to the correct addresses.

Kickingbird and other Cobell class members also hope this situation is not indicative of larger administrative problems, but some think it is not a coincidence that on December 11, Cobell lawyers petitioned the overseeing court for a special master to oversee the payment process.

In the U.S. legal system special masters are sometimes appointed to make sure that certain court orders are followed.

The National Congress of American Indians says it learned that the special master was requested “to oversee the distribution of the funds with a focus on efforts to locate all eligible beneficiaries,” according to a recent press release from the organization.

On December 17, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed that a special master was necessary, with Judge Thomas Hogan appointing Judge Richard A. Levie to the position.

According to court papers, Levie will be responsible for considering and approving Stage 1 payment requests, ruling over deceased class members’ claims, and sorting out address issues and appeals.

NCAI is also raising separate concerns about the payments, and has released a public service announcement in order to increase awareness about the possibility of fraud and scams targeting Cobell class members.

“This settlement can benefit you, your family and your communities, but we must all be aware of the potential negative impacts. You or others may be a target for scams,” NCAI President Jefferson Keel says in the ads being distributed to Native American radio stations. “Dishonest people know about the settlement and are figuring ways to take money from you. Be aware and be watchful. If you suspect a scam, you can contact your State’s Attorney General Office of Consumer Protection or your tribe.”

According to NCAI, there are several ways class members could be targeted: “Individuals in these circumstances usually get mail, phone calls, and e-mail with ideas for how to spend the money. For example, individuals or their family might get offers for new or used vehicles, credit card or loan offers, rent-to-own ‘deals,’ or an advance on the money.”

NCAI “is encouraging individuals to determine how to save or spend their money, and to be wary of scams that encourage people to ‘Act Now!,’ make big promises, offer no risk, or tell people to ‘keep it secret’ referring to the offer,” says an NCAI press release, which adds, “the best way to protect Native money is to make a plan, ‘take your time’ when deciding how to spend the money, ask questions, and talk to someone you trust.”

NCAI directs anyone who has questions about payments to contact the claims administrator, Garden City Group, Inc., directly.

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Really? BIA screwing us again? And Who is the Garden Group? Are they Native Owned? Was the payment process open to bidding by Native American owned businesses?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I've received so many different stories from info@IndianTrust.com every time I call. One person says one thing,then another says something else. I firmly believe that,our native people will NEVER receive a payment. For those who did receive a check--you are very,very lucky! Just another scam on us Native Americans! What else is new...eh?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
One would like to think that there was a porcess in place - full proof way of verifying and delivering prior to any announcment. Process begin to breakdown when people or individuals (not all) whom are nepetistically entered into a entity with out supported education to become a desicion maker or process developer to completely understand the scope or business case for delivery and or vetting information prior to release. what was the design or plan? and was it communicated or whom was it communicated with? I find it uncorfortable that many indeginous peoples are consistantly road blocked when it come to wanting to know "why" from a entity that is supposed to work for our nation. someone please ask the right question- so we can get the right answer.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Yes I have friends here that have not received their paymet due to the fact that they mailed it to the wrong address he gets his mail fro IIM account and his lease checks at his current address but his cobell went to a totally differant addre

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I have called and faxed updated information on new address and phone number. But...was it changed? or thrown in the TO DO BOX? Come on were Indians too. Just because we don't live on the reservation at least acknowledge us.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I recently discovered that BIA has me listed as deceased back in 2009. I filed an inital claim in 2011 and filed a recent claim since I did not receive a check. I finally got a hold of the Garden Group and discovered that my inital claim in 2011 and it was closed indicating that I was deceased. At this point my second claim is currently pending review (3 weeks) and I have not been told how I too address my deceased status. It would be nice if we could get a direct answer on how to address our claims.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
A friend of mine was wondering where his check for $1000.00 was he had not received yet and it was in his IIM account.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I'm a bit confused. Do all members with an enrollment number get the first payment? What qualified you to get the payment.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
WHEN SENDING THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY OUT THEY SHOULDV'E SENT OUT VARIFICATION OF ADDRESSES AND HAD THEM NOTARIZED

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
So still waiting for that phone call from someone to address the issue of what happened with my check? I was informed by one operator two days ago that the check had been voided and had asked why? She could not explain. Then I had followed up with a phone call 24 hrs later this time an operator says a check was sent on the 29th of sept. If I were not to receive it in two days to call back GCG. But you can tell this is just a call center with no viable information. They know exactly what is going on. They have to recoup the money lost and may not be able to retrieve it. Which this company should be sued for bungling this settlement payout. If what I am reading on this blog and someone is receiving money they shouldn't be getting? Where was the due diligence? Let me see and the interest is going to be paid right? What is GCG'S excuse for not getting my check to me? They have had my address all along.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
So still waiting for that phone call from someone to address the issue of what happened with my check? I was informed by one operator two days ago that the check had been voided and had asked why? She could not explain. Then I had followed up with a phone call 24 hrs later this time an operator says a check was sent on the 29th of sept. If I were not to receive it in two days to call back GCG. But you can tell this is just a call center with no viable information. They know exactly what is going on. They have to recoup the money lost and may not be able to retrieve it. Which this company should be sued for bungling this settlement payout. If what I am reading on this blog and someone is receiving money they shouldn't be getting? Where was the due diligence? Let me see and the interest is going to be paid right? What is GCG'S excuse for not getting my check to me? They have had my address all along.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I phoned the number after waiting three weeks for my check, when I finally got through I was told the they "have not yet determined my eligiblity". I have been receiving my quarterly IIM statements and hold current leases...what gives?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I keep the BIA informed about any change of address on my part. I used to have direct pay to a bank; when i changed banks informed the BIA of that too. It helps.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I was told that we should research as to why some family members did not recieve a check but when asked what type of research and who to contact they could not provide that information.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
SO IF YOU NEVER RECEIVED THE FIRST CHECK IS THAT GONNA BE SENT WITH THE SECOND PAYOUT ?AND HOW LONG BEFORE THE SECOND PAYOUT AND WHAT IS FOR?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
AGGGGHHHH!!!!! After calling on December 24 and December 28 and being disconnected, I e-mailed them using the link @ the Indian Trust website link--no response. I then e-mailed: Info@IndianTrust.com from my own e-mail account on January 4 and got an acknowledgement, later received a request for more information. When I submitted the requested information, I got a "you don't have to do anything, we are making a determination on your claim." Still waiting but at least I have a paper trail. My husband received his check on December 18, son, December 17 but nothing for my brothers and sisters. One of my friends said she received two checks, she presumes it was because she had an IIM account at her old tribe and her new tribe when she changed enrollment.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I got this email from them. You are a member of the Trust Administration Class. The estimated payment is $$$$$ from Trust Administration. These are just estimates, actual payment amounts may differ from the amounts given above. On December 12, 2012, the Court filed an Order which directs the Claims Administrator to commence distribution of payments to the living members of the Historical Accounting Class no later than December 24, 2012. Many of the initial steps to commence check production have already begun so that checks may be mailed as quickly as possible after the Court posts their order to distribute. We commenced distribution the week of December 17th. Be advised that distributions are ongoing. The December 12, 2012 Court Order does establish a preliminary timeline for Trust Administration Class eligibility determinations. The first of these deadlines is March 1, 2013, which is the last day to submit a Claim Form for consideration as a member of the Trust Administration Class. Determinations of Trust Class eligibility will be completed by July 15, 2013, and we anticipate commencing payments to the Trust Administration Class by late summer or early fall of 2013 based on present Court order.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Has anyone who has already received a check or know of someone who has say they've had issue with cashing or depositing their check. I've called their toll free number twice, each time I've been told to wait while they look into it and they will call me back. I recently received a notice from my bank informing that the check I received was suspected and flagged as counterfeit and is now going to close my accounts. Has anyone else heard of this happening, and know of how or if they fixed the issue. Thank you for your time.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Also, what is happening with the second payments that they are now saying wont be sent out till fall? We should be getting interest on OUR money. They already know we are getting it and the amount. They should pay it out to us NOW..It is OUR money, and who IS getting the interest on OUR money?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Well at least most of you will be getting a check but what about some of us how have recently inherited our lands--its a mess! My family and relatives had inherited our lands in time to be eligible for this settlement. But I wasn't on the list but the rest of my kin were. They were all told that they would be getting it before Christmas but never did, just my mother. My uncle had been a account holder longer than any of us but still haven't received anything. I filled out the claim and called to see if I was added some weeks later--I still wasn't added to the list. They suggested filling out the form which I had done twice already. Then I heard something disturbing from my home in Montana. Apparently, some that weren't eligible for this settlement but had IIM accounts but no lands received a check---what the hell's going on. I'm completing a BFA, and need this for my survival and were being, once again being jerked around by mismanagement.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I know, let's all get together and sue the Garden Group for once again mismanaging our damn $$. It's bad enough settling with what the U.S. Gov. really owes us...

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I am just getting to the point where I even regret cashing this check. Its just been a nightmare dealing with the problems that have arisen from it. I called their 1-800 number numerous times now. Each time I've been told that they would escalate my issue to the head supervisor. Yes, I realize many others haven't and are waiting to receive their own check, I just don't want others to go through what I am currently going through. We are told that this money is ours, to help with family, school, or just to save for the future. Yet I do just that and now I'm being told that the check that I cashed is suspected as counterfeit. That the account that corresponds to the account number on the check doesn't exist. This check is supposed to be legit. It is legit, but somehow there is no account link to the check they sent me. I can't be the only one with this unfortunate problem. It already happened to me so the odds of it happening to someone else with the number of checks already sent out and received is to high. Now I must pay back the bank the money before the close the account I opened in order to cash the check. It worries me to think how this may affect my finances record in the future. Thank you for reading. -Concerned College Student

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I also call and told Them on three different occasions. One time I called the Lady said We have Your address and was so smug about it. The address was wrong. Then come to find out My money was sent to My IIM account. I did not tell them to send it there. But what do I know???

Pamela J. Spang's picture
Pamela J. Spang
Submitted by Pamela J. Spang on
I called like I was suppose to the first go around. I was told I would 800.00 and some odd dollars. My husband and son recieved 1000.00. I called back and they said, you are in the second go around. Go to the web sight and fill out your claim forms. When I go there it says if you recieve notices from your IIM account you don't need to file papers. I had already provided my current address and they had it right. Now I am worried about the second go around. When you get 3 different stories who are you to believe.

Felicia Ann Gonzalez's picture
Felicia Ann Gonzalez
Submitted by Felicia Ann Gonzalez on
You will receive your money before Christmas,they said.Still haven't!Today is the 29th of JANUARY!Now there is something seriously wrong going on here.But who can you call,that you haven't already,to help you find out what the hold up is?I could have done a better job at sending out the checks then the Garden Group!Whom I know is making alot of money off this deal.Bet they got their money.......

anonymous's picture
anonymous
Submitted by anonymous on
in our family, certain members recieved their checks and others were being investigated and some on hold. A bit unorganized.

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