Judge Orders the Surrender of Miccosukee Tribe’s Financial Records

A judge for the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida has ordered Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Wachovia and American Express to turn over the Miccosukee Tribe’s financial records to the Internal Revenue Service, according to a press release issued yesterday by Miami-Dade lawyer Ramon M. Rodriguez.

Judge Alan S. Gold halted the Miccosukee’s’ numerous attempts to block the IRS from digging into financial records related to the tribe’s 600 members. He said the IRS’s right to financial records supersedes the tribe’s sovereign nation status. The ruling covers all internal financial operations of the tribe and the distribution of gambling profits to tribal members. The documents, held by Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Wachovia and American Express, cover the years 2006-09.

According to a report in the Miami Herald on Aug. 2, the IRS began investigating the tribe in 2005, when IRS agent James Furnas became suspicious of tribal members not filing income tax reports and of the tribe not withholding income taxes on gaming distributions. Furnas stated in court papers that the agency learned of “allegations that the tribe regularly hired armored cars to carry cash, somewhere between $6 and $10 million per quarter, from its gambling operation for direct distribution to tribal members without reporting these distributions to the IRS.”

In the press release, Rodriguez stated that the ruling will shine a light on the tribe’s once secretive finances and casino revenues. “The financial consequences could prove to be enormous and the legal precedence ground breaking,” he said.

Rodriguez is representing the plaintiffs in a case involving a 1998 head-on collision car accident on Tamiami Trail near the Miccosukee reservation in Miami, Fla., that killed Gloria Liliana Bermudez and injured her husband, Carlos Bermudez, and their infant son Matthew. Miccosukee tribal member Tammy Gwen Billie had crossed the centerline and struck the Bermudez vehicle head-on. Billie, as court records show, was intoxicated when driving a vehicle owned by her father, Jimmie Bert, also a Miccosukee tribal member.

Billie pled guilty to vehicular homicide, resulting in probation, and in July 2009, a jury awarded the Bermudez family $3,177,000 in damages. The defendants, however, have failed to satisfy the judgment, claiming to be “uncollectible,” though as members of the Miccosukee Tribe they may be receiving as much as $160,000 a year in per cap payments.

On July 21, 2011, Miami- Dade County Judge Michael A. Genden ordered sanctions against Billie, her father and their Miami lawyer Michael R. Tein and the Coconut Grove, Fla. law firm Lewis Tein for abuse of the discovery process during the post-judgment stage of this wrongful death case.

“The IRS is able to get financial records that my clients have been waiting for,” Rodriguez said. “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.”


  1. Wade says:

    The Miccosukee Tribe is willing to protect one member who killed 3 people while intoxicated? Why? Don’t they realize this ruling could have an effect on our sovereignty throughout Turtle Island? Time to pay up and quit trying to protect those who do wrong amongst our people!

  2. michael Tiger " TRADER MIKE' says:

    other tribal nations under the b.i.a. dont have to comply with the IRS.
    our folks were here first and never had a b.i.a.treaty like the other CONCORD tribes .
    any way dont the insured persons insurance co. have any obligations in the matter
    some folks say pay up it in injustice not to..
    well those folks should look at the movie MANN Vs. FORD
    about how indian tribes are treated in this so called real world…..

    just one elders opinion thanks for looking.
    michael tiger also known as trader mike on the pow wow trail

    • LEIA GEORGE says:

      stand up for our tribe…we are just getting back what was taken from us in the beginning and protecting our future tribal leaders and make a stand for our rights

  3. Shut up. says:

    It clearly states that the mother was killed and that the father and son got injured.

    So no, one person was killed, not three. And that doesn’t make it any less of a crime.

    But it looks like you need to reread things because it obviously doesn’t register in your head when you read things the first time.

  4. Fay says:

    Why does the tribe owe the money? If it was paid to the tribal member in per capita payments and the tribal member refused to pay the courts, how is that the tribes fault? That is like asking your employer to turn over their financials to see if they paid the employee enough to pay the bill. Then holding your employer responsible for the debt. ha ha! funny!

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  7. Near by observer says:

    There are two issues mentioned, a tax problem and the death in the collision.
    The tax problem is the IRS saying that the Tribe members are at fault as a whole for failure to pay tax on the money distributed. Tribe members say they were told by the business council that the money was tax free. The IRS disagrees and the court ordered the bank to turn over the tribes financial records so it can be determined how much money was distributed.
    The death in the traffic accident is a separate case. In it the tribe member said they could not determine how much money they had or received or would receive in order to pay the judgement against them. Their lawyer is hoping to use the records form the IRS case to determine how much the guilty tribe member did get or may get.


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