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Witnesses Invoke Fifth Amendment

July 20, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two leaders of what Senate investigators call a sham Cherokee Indian nation invoked their constitutional protection against self-incrimination and refused to testify Friday before a Senate subcommittee investigating insurance fraud.

Dallas Bessant, a British citizen known as Wise Otter, and William Fry of Dallas, known as Bear Who Walks Softly, invoked the Fifth Amendment several times in response to questions by Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., chairman of the investigations subcommittee of the Governmental Affairs Committee.

″We will continue investigating organizations such as those in which you ... are involved,″ Nunn said in dismissing the two.

John Sopko, deputy chief counsel to the panel, reported on the ″Cherokee″ group’s links with several ″offshore″ reinsurance companies whose business supposedly is sharing risks with other insurance firms, generally without strong regulation by their home governments.

″The staff found that the group of individuals who call themselves the Soverign Cherokee Nation is neither sovereign, nor Cherokee, nor a nation,″ Sopko said. ″It is a sham, run by a group of ‘white’ or ‘Anglo’ Americans for the sole purpose of financial self-enrichment.″

Investigators in at least three states had found earlier that key assets of several reinsurance companies were apparently worthless bonds issued by the ″Indian″ nation. Four reinsurance companies that are the subject of the subcommittee probe are controlled by Bessant and Jerry Tidmore Sr.

The subcommittee is concerned about the health of offshore reinsurance companies because have underwritten policies for many major U.S. businesses.

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