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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
I have called the garden city group twice before the payments even began. Told them I was on disability and my check was supposed to be direct deposited but evryday since the 17th I check my bank and NO MONEY. Try to ask IIM in Albuquerque but they just shine me on and won't even try to help. What a shame, they are supposed to help aren't they?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I too have received my lease money on a regular basis and called the 1 800 number to check on my status and update info and my payment still gets sent to previous address. I called the bureau in Albuquerque, NM and updated my info way before this settlement was scheduled for disbursement. What is going on? Obviously the bureau still has communication problems, the mess is still going on people. We need to ensure the bureau is doing their job......

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Shouldn't the recipients make sure their address information is updated and correct? Take some responsibility for yourself. Also, BIA is not the one distributing the checks. Aren't they coming from OST who has the address information and IIM accounts in a system? BIA from the get go was told not to give out ay information and to forward all inquirires to the Albuquerque Office of OST or the 800 #.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
again, government does whatever.... answers to no one.... it must be nice

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I started calling GCG once the judge announced that checks will be disbursed to make sure that they had my correct address. When Wednesday came rolling around my sister's check came in the mail (here in Hawai'i) but mine had not...I called again to double check my address and inquire why or how is it possible for my sister's check to come in and not mine....I took responsibility to do my part and was brushed off both times with a read out answer....Any question I had sounded like the lady was reading straight off of the cobell settlement site. I know how to read and wish they didn't just read what I have already read but I oh well. I'll just be patient and see what happens

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I havent got my payment although I hve calld evry other month n checked in w them so c how the process wz going. I also am now concerned my check along with my land check will b an issue.........I had to prove my fathers death n I am always told "we r reseraching it" although I sent in every document known to man! just frustrated....guess ill go the the house I lived in 6 yrs ago n see if the renters may have it:( im bummed. needed it. hope god grants me this prayer. please.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I received mine. But I also "Checked in" monthly since for the last almost two years with the Cobell Administration office by phone to make sure that the mailing address I had on file with them was the same and didnt change or get messed up. No one in my age group in my family has received theirs yet. But due in large part for not following up with the case administration office and not getting their paper work in etc. The system addresses go in doesnt link with any outside computer system. It doesnt "Magically" update or find addresses. As far as I know. I was only going off of what my Mother had told me for decades about how messed up administrations (B.I.A., Tribal Offices etc.) are when it comes to Native issues and administration. I didnt want to leave that up to chance in this case.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Same as all other receipients of Cobell Settlement; Updated all info week to weeks before disbursement, then all of a sudden on 20 December 2012, info on toll free no requested us to submit all required info to www.indiantrust.com to verify the correct mailing address. A repeat of what was given weeks ahead of disbursement. Are they pulling a scam on sum Natives?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Good luck with that! I have a claim/control number and still have no answer on my status of my claim. Alot of my relatives in New Mexico already recieved their 1st payment and my mom and I haven't heard or recieved any kind of indication of our statuses. The staff at the 1-800 number have been no help for me. It's just a waiting game now.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Like any other litigation a party to the lawsuit (BIA) is silent on the matter. The Garden City Group is being compensated, very well I suppose, to handle the entire payout and questions from claimants. BIA/OST probably have as much information as anyone else on the GCG's distribution process/procedure and much less of their inner workings. Yes, it's each individual's responsibility to keep their address and other information updated. If I remember correctly the claim form requests evidence to be included with the claim to support it, so if an individual is being told they do not have an account but have an old statement, a copy of that document in my mind would be the evidence one could include. It is a massive undertaking (the payout distribution) I'm sure the issues and problems surfacing will continue to surface in addition to a host of others...

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Wonder if this is the reason why I haven't gotten mine, and my 2 sisters already got theres....Wonder where they sent it?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Why are whole families getting a check when one person in the family has an IIM account ??? They don't understand it ,but they are cashing the checks. What are they doing ? Looking @ someone's probate,is that where they are getting the old addresses? Some one needs to address that problem. When the heirs to IIM account holders have to wait ?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Haw

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I emailed Garden City Group and they requested verification. I provided the information they requested, yet they asked me again for more information. This continued for several emails. I finally called them because I couldn't provide my SSN from my work computer. I got through and spoke to someone who verified the address they had on file was correct. This was AFTER December 17th. When I asked if my check had been mailed, they provided me with a standard statement about who would receive checks and who would have money put in their IIM accounts. They could not and did not say anything about whether the money would be deposited in my bank, although I also asked that question. It is now December 26, 2012, and I still have not received payment and I am part of the Historical Class. Something sure seems 'fishy' to me. I wonder...are they getting any sort of interest off of this money? If so, perhaps they are taking their time getting it sent out. Also, I have continued to call, always receiving the same message: call back after 7 days, they are experiencing a large volume of calls. They knew the money was going to be released. They should have made better plans on distributing it. Poor management, very poor management on the part of Garden City Group. I wonder...is this possibly another legal case?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I emailed Garden City Group and they requested verification. I provided the information they requested, yet they asked me again for more information. This continued for several emails. I finally called them because I couldn't provide my SSN from my work computer. I got through and spoke to someone who verified the address they had on file was correct. This was AFTER December 17th. When I asked if my check had been mailed, they provided me with a standard statement about who would receive checks and who would have money put in their IIM accounts. They could not and did not say anything about whether the money would be deposited in my bank, although I also asked that question. It is now December 26, 2012, and I still have not received payment and I am part of the Historical Class. Something sure seems 'fishy' to me. I wonder...are they getting any sort of interest off of this money? If so, perhaps they are taking their time getting it sent out. Also, I have continued to call, always receiving the same message: call back after 7 days, they are experiencing a large volume of calls. They knew the money was going to be released. They should have made better plans on distributing it. Poor management, very poor management on the part of Garden City Group. I wonder...is this possibly another legal case?

annieosage's picture
annieosage
Submitted by annieosage on
I have followed up constantly through out this process. I'm in the same address. My phone number, IIM#, SS#- nothing has changed. Now I get the run around. We need more info. It will be a check. It will be DD. I don't think it matters if you followed up with them or not. No one in my family has received their check and we all called them at least once a month in the last couple years and each time they verified our information. Apparently it did not matter and someone is getting the interest off a whole lot of money

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I'm submitting this comment mainly to air my frustration. I've called the 800 number at Cobell vs Salazar and reached a recorded message/music that says "Be Patient, someone will get with me". I am a No. Paiute, work for a NV Tribe, submitted claim forms for myself, my children plus many Indian clients coming to the office. My son and daughter received their checks, clients called to say they got their checks and my bros. told me he received his check a week before I called, this past weekend. This doesn't make any sense, it's very frustrating and now I can't even get through. Now What?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Neither myself, or my 6 brothers and sisters, have received our checks, and we ALL made sure our addresses were correct prior to the payments being sent out. I was really counting on this money for bills and Christmas. I wish I'd have never known the payments were "getting ready to go out".Talk about being severely disappointed. Failed, again!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I have called the Indian Trust number in the past few months, just to check on the status of things, & always got through. When I have called the number within the past few weeks, however, a recording comes on, I never get to speak with a "live" person, & the call disconnects. I really didn't expect things to go smoothly since the government was involved. I'm extremely disappointed in the whole process.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
to all the people that called that number your best bet is to email them i did and got through quicker than calling..

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I checked with them twice to be sure they had my address where I have lived for nearly 19 years. My daughter put in a change of address both by internet and by mail with ID so they knew it was her, what happened? My daughter and sons check arrived at my house, my check has not arrived. I called on Dec. 23, they told me to wait.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
My Moms check was sent to an address which was 26 years old. She filed out an application prior to the distribution with her new address, but no, they sent her check to an address, 26 years old. The real kicker is that if the checks are returned, they will not go into whereabouts unknown, but returned to the settlement account. I think this is fraud on the governments part since they are using old addresses. You know my Mom receives he IIM updates to her current address, so why did her check go to an address 26 years old?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
how do I get a hold of albuquerque mn there has to be a phone # for me to get a hold of them @ if any one has this info please post

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I have followed this lawsuit for years and have had no problems. I found my name on the whereabouts unknown list several years ago, called the OST and sent in the appropriate information and received my $1000.00 in the mail as stated in the news. I will say though, that my grandma's name is on the list and she has been deceased for years.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
How is it some of my family members have received there payment and I nor the rest of my family has not. I have tried to call and no one can ever give me an answer. Jennifer Phillips Trussville, Al 35173

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