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Employee Benefits Security Administration

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Release Date: 12/05/2005
Release Number: 05-2223-ATL
Contact Name: Dan Fuqua/Jo Anne Burgoyne
Phone Number: 404.562.2078/404.562.2076

U.S. Labor Department Obtains Court Order Reimbursing $1 Million to California Health Benefit Fund

Atlanta, Georgia - The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment ordering payment of $1 million in restitution to the California-based International Union of Industrial and Independent Workers Benefit Fund (IUIIW). The fund was placed under the receivership of Jeanne Bryant in Brentwood, Tennessee.

“We are pleased that the court has agreed to order the plan managers to pay a million dollars to fund the health benefits of these union workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “Workers and their families depend upon these health benefits and we want to make sure they are there when they need them.”

In addition, separate court orders bar plan administrator Oak Tree Administrators (OTA) and Cherille Shelp, former owner and president of OTA, from future service as a fiduciary to plans covered by federal benefits law.

Under a previous court order, the fund’s trustees were required to pay $840,000 in restitution to the fund and to pay civil penalties to the federal government. The trustees were also barred from serving as plan fiduciaries.

In its original lawsuit, filed April 2004, the Labor Department alleged that OTA violated its fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The organization’s improper actions allegedly resulted in several million dollars in unpaid health claims. Trustees named in the suit included Geoffrey J. Beltz, David Wright, Jimmy Miller and Henry Solowiej.

The fund, which purported to be a union-sponsored benefit plan, was marketed to employers and individuals in Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, California and many other states. Several states, including Oklahoma and Georgia, ordered the fund’s operators to stop all insurance-related activities.

The consent order was entered in federal district court in Atlanta. The Atlanta regional office of the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) investigated the case. Employers and workers can reach the Atlanta regional office at 404.562.2156, or EBSA toll-free at 1.866.444.EBSA (3272), for help with problems relating to private-sector retirement and health plans. Tips on purchasing health benefits may be found at EBSA’s Web site at www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/fshlthinstips.html.

(Chao v. International Union of Industrial and Independent Workers)
Civil Action No. 1:04-CV-0934-BBM

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