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Tribal check distribution has law departments on high alert

Apr 22, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva and Katie Roenigk, Staff Writers

Law enforcement officials throughout Fremont County have been preparing for a potential increase in criminal activity due to the distribution of oil and gas settlement checks to tribal members.

The first checks for at least $6,000 are being mailed this week.

"We are very much aware of the situation and have been preparing for months to protect the citizens and keep things going as normal as possible," Lander Police Department chief Jim Carey said. "We have been working with agencies from around the state."

Riverton Police Department Capt. C.T. Smith said officials are not as worried about people "going wild" as a result of the monetary influx. Rather, he said law enforcement will be looking out for vulnerable community members, especially the elderly, who will be responsible for a large amount of cash when checks are distributed.

"We need to be out there to make sure that they don't become unsuspecting victims of crime," he said.

Both tribes have encouraged members to open bank accounts where the money can be kept in a secure place. In fact, Northern Arapaho leaders say banks will not cash settlement checks for people without a bank account, due to the large amount of money being disbursed.

At the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, Undersheriff Ryan Lee said deputies will be ready to handle any issues that come their way.

"We devise contingency plans for a multitude of events," he said. "That's how we operate, (and) I think that's what the public expects. We're prepared for anything that may come up."