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 been waiting for my check to I thought it was supposed to take 5 days to be out well its a lot longer then 5 days I havent seen anything.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
It's another sad state of affairs for Indian people who have been patiently waiting to receive the settlement funds but now being told call back, were researching it. Will the IIM accounts holders who didn't receive their checks get interest for late payments? Hmm not likely.. still waiting in Montana

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
just some FYI......there is a court order that keeps "IIM" (which is actually the Office of the Special Trustee) and BIA from visiting with members of the class so if they brush you off to the Garden City Group....it's because they have to. Also, BIA doesn't keep track of your addresses for your IIM account, the Office of the Special Trustee (OST) does. But as the lady mentions in the article.....she gets her statements, she gets her checks. So why didn't she get her check?? Well here's my guess......sometime before or after the settlement was approved in 2009, addresses were obtained from OST. AND NOT AGAIN AFTER THAT. So even though you may have your addresses updated for your IIM account, that did not/will not roll over to the Garden City Group. The accusation that the BIA gave the GCG the wrong address is a half-truth......OST probably gave the GCG the address on your account in 2009 which was probably the CORRECT address then (not in all cases). The Garden City Group needs to take some responsibility for the fact that they didn't keep the members of the class adequately informed with regard to addresses and address updates. They should have told you.......hey if your address changed after 2009 and you didn't change it with us, we will send it to the 2009 address we got from OST. Remember, that is my GUESS....somebody that really knows the answer is either a third-party contractor that doesn't know to give the right answer OR is someone that is under court order not to visit with you

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Same old story, I am a enrolled Native of a Federaly reconized tribe, I have IIM number and trust land inhierited by probate. I sent my claim in before the deadline 2011 notorized, and for extra measure I also sent in an electronic claim,; along with all the documentation to verify my claim. When the payment rumor startedI I did call the 1 800 number and was told I did not have a claim, however I had a claim number? and they did have my documents but they could not find the claim. I re-sent a 3rd claim form in notorized. and did email, I did receive a email with the canned answer "we are researching" I sent a email showing two probates verifying my trust interest, I received a 2nd email with a copy of the two statements of what quailfys a person for a claim, and that if I felt I was eligible to call the 18 800 number or email. No answer there! Relatives are calling me stating that their children are receiving checks but not the parent who holds the trust interest! Where are they getting their informaiton from BIA or OST?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I too have been in contact with the GCG and they never had any trouble looking me up or verifying my current address until the payments were approved then it was "oh we dont have your correct address" so they supposedly updated it a week before the checks were supposed to be cut, so i waited and waited still no check, called them they looked me up and said they sent it to the wrong address, fricking inept,thieves,crooked a-holes! if there is a lawsuit regarding this gross mismanagement I Want in!!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Yep, that's the BIA for ya!! Same problem here, called several months in adance to update address and still went to the old address...who is suppose to be updating these?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Yep, that's the BIA for ya!! Same problem here, called several months in adance to update address and still went to the old address...who is suppose to be updating these?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I also heard that they will not be making direct deposits, and only checks will be mailed out. That would for sure be a mess if they had to collect everyones routing numbers to direct deposit. I also know people did not call the 800 number and update or just verify what address they had.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Yes, even though I have moved to Oregon from Washington this year, I got the check before Christmas. I hope the next one comes as efficiently. Since the government lost this lawsuit, why would they be providing the information? Didn't the stakeholders have the obligation to file for their part of the settlement? I don't believe it was going to be paid into the IIM accounts. That would be a violation of privacy. Maybe further litigation for mismangement will be necessary.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
It would be interesting to see how many were sent to the correct addresses. Most of our family received theirs except for one person. Hopefully it will be straightened out soon.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
It would be interesting to see how many were sent to the correct addresses. Most of our family received theirs except for one person. Hopefully it will be straightened out soon.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I have family members who have no land, never had an IIM Account, and received the $1000. Also, family members who all have the exact same (%100) family blood line, who haven't received the $1000. So, that tells me or us that the Garden City Group did not do there job in the distribution of the money owed to us. I am seriously considering a law suit for the money owed to my family members who haven't received there money. So, I hope they correct there mismanagement.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
i also have not received it yet either, i live here in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area and keep trying to get ahold of a live person on that 1-800 number posted on www.indiantrust.com site but its an automated message so i cant get thru to anyone to find out about the whereabout of my check. If anyone can help me out and let me know where else i can call to check i would appreciate it. My sister and cousins have all already got their checks right before Christmas, but i havent received mine yet.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
my children are recieving the 1000.00 and iam not...what a slap in the face for all natives who should receive.my children are not IIM account holders.but that didnt stop the checks going to them..where now ..different law suit..???sad ..real sad..

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
i agree with what your saying there is alot of greedy people in this world and that is so ashame im so glad the native americans are not like that we stand for are tribe cause nobody else is there for us exept take what they can but thats okaye cause god dont like ugles

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I didn't get anything either. Was told by the Indian Trust people that there are A LOT of accounts with my exact name and address and that these bunglers don't know which one is me. No return calls, I don't expect to get anything although they said I qualify for all the classes. 'Something' is going on here.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I called the garden city group, they said i am in processing and they verified my address, My mother andmy brother received their checks, wheres mine probably at my old address.....Please fix soon.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I have been calling GCG for some time before the settlement during and after and sent in a claim form when not needed. Have been at the same address for some years and have always received statements in regards to my IIM accounts at said address and cannot understand why they have failed to not put a deposit in my IIM that I have had for years. The check is not lost the payment never went into my IIM account in the first. Still waiting for the claims adjuster to call back to no avail? Just got off the phone with the OST still no deposit what so ever. How is this possible when other family members has theirs?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
An organization being paid several millions of dollar to ensure the IIM account holders will received checks before x=mas as publized throughout major newpapers in the country. I have cointacted this organization several times through the e-mail and telephone and still left out in the dark as to when I will be getting my check. This is UNCALLED FOR for a company being paid millions of dollars to satisfactorily complete a task assigned. There should be other phone numbers made available to us for contact purposes so we can get some satisfactory answers. Now we are out in the dark. This may result in another glass action.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I have been calling and calling way before they distributed the checks to make sure my info was correct. In the beginning they said to call back in a week. Last week they told me it is pending now. Lots of my relatives have received theirs already. I have never had a problem receiving info before. Another way of the system trying to take advantage of our people. I pray that all of us will get ours very soon. Is it time we write to the President?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
... In my mind - The reason that nothing is getting changed or corrected is, the people working there, have a temporary job and once all the checks are disbursed, no more job. So they will not "help", that way they have a job tomorrow. I have found out that a very old BIA database was used, DESPITE any and all attempts at correcting your information PRIOR to the initial disbursement. NO MATTER if you had gotten correct information to them and they had correct information - that was NOT USED to send the checks. I have called numerous times, and have emailed many times - and each time I call I am given generic and general answers - as are my email replies. So, I am thinking that it was set-up that way. Good ole BIA. Watch, and you mark my words, it will come out that some people were paid, that were not supposed to and they will want the money back - and will withhold the other check to offset their mistake.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Any one with family names on the OST whereabouts unknown list that have passed away the family needs to call the OST office and have them turn it over to the Probate office so their family member can be taken off the list.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I want to know and make sure everything is correct and up to date in their offices too!!!! IT IS 2013!!!! Always its lack of communication, but there is no concern for those who sit behind the desks and of foreign nationality!!!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I live on the Crow Creek Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota, but when the Bureau of Indian Affairs was taking our information and addresses for our Cobell payments I asked the BIA female if they could direct deposit the checks to the banks, she said yes. So I gave her my routing and account number and have been waiting, I called the Garden City Group, Inc. directly at the 800 number and they told me they will not send my check direct deposit. So I had to email her my name, enrollment number, social security number, DOB and address now I like thousands of others am waiting for my check that I was suppose to receive before Christmas. Just hope I will get it soon.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Garden City has a recording answering their phone then hangs up. I called them prior to disbursement to verify they had my correct address. They said they did. No check to date. Response from them v ia email, check was sent to an old address even though they told me they had my current address

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