Oklahoma tribes' accounts to remain frozen, federal judge rules

A federal judge has ruled that bank accounts belonging to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma are to remain frozen until a leadership dispute within the tribe is resolved.
by Andrew Knittle Published: May 11, 2012
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A federal judge has ruled that bank accounts belonging to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are to remain frozen until a leadership dispute within the tribes is resolved.

The tribes filed a lawsuit a week ago in federal court, claiming that roughly $6.4 million of their funds were illegally frozen by Clinton-based First Bank and Trust Co.

The Concho-based tribes asked the judge to lift the freeze placed on their funds by the bank because they had already bounced checks to employees, vendors and contractors.

Federal judge David L. Russell issued his ruling Wednesday, citing the ongoing feud between disputed tribal Gov. Janice Prairie Chief-Boswell and Leslie Wandrie-Harjo, who was once lieutenant governor.

A Custer County judge is scheduled to take up the leadership and banking issues June 8 in district court, where the bank filed for the administrative freeze.

“Depending on which group prevails on the dispute over governance, the bank faces potential liability for the payment of money at the request of an unauthorized signator,” Russell's order states. “In light of the ongoing governance issues, about which Plaintiffs have presented no evidence, the Court cannot conclude that Plaintiffs will ultimately prevail in their quest to have the administrative freeze lifted.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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