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Cayuga Indians Attack Tax Foreclosures

WATERLOO – The Cayuga Indian Nation, a purported successor entity to the historic Cayuga Indians that once resided in Upstate New York, has served notice of their intent to seek an injunction to prevent Seneca County from foreclosing on properties owned by the Cayuga Indian Nation that are in arrears in County tax payments.According to Seneca County Attorney Frank Fisher, the five parcels are each three years in arrears in County real property tax payments and are listed in a petition to be filed in New York State Supreme Court to foreclose on the properties. As in any County property tax foreclosure proceeding, this is a step in the process that would eventually result in the parcels being auctioned at a tax sale. These five parcels, totaling 328.82 acres, are a portion of the over eleven hundred acres in Seneca County owned by the CIN. While some other parcels are also in arrears, they have not reached the three-year threshold for foreclosure. Cayuga County commenced a proceeding against five parcels of land owned by the CIN in Cayuga County according to Cayuga County Legislative Chairman, Peter Tortorici. Over $124,000.00 is owed in delinquent real property taxes.The Cayuga Indian Nation has taken the position that while the Counties may lawfully assess real property taxes on Indian-owned properties, the Federal Courts prohibit collection of those taxes and the Cayuga Indian Nation refuses to pay any such tax assessments. Seneca County and Cayuga County disagree with this interpretation, finding it illogical that the Federal Courts would uphold the right of the County to assess property taxes, but not provide any means to collect them.The Seneca County Board of Supervisors has announced that they intend to oppose the CIN action and proceed forward with collection of real property taxes. “Seneca County believes that these properties are subject to property tax, and that there is no legal basis to refrain from standard foreclosure procedures” Fisher said.Cayuga County officials have also announced their intent to commence tax enforcement proceedings against delinquent taxes owed on CIN-owned properties. “It appears that Cayuga Indian Nation only pays real property taxes on parcels of land it owns when it submits a fee to trust application to the BIA, and not before. The Nation appears to take the position that they are required to comply with local laws only when and if they apply to have land taken into trust by the Federal government. You or I cannot do that”, Tortorici said.A Court date has not yet been set for a hearing on the Cayuga Indian Nation claim in the Western District Court.PRESS RELEASE – 1/6/11Seneca County Attorney, FRANK R. FISHERCayuga County Attorney, FRED WESTPHAL

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