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Lawyer: False Claims in Farm Case

September 16, 1999

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Black farmers who want a piece of a $375 million discrimination settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture will have to wait because of fraudulent claims, said a lawyer representing many of the Arkansas farmers.

Othello Cross, who has handled about 2,200 claims from black farmers in the state, said some people who never farmed are filing claims saying they lost thousands of dollars because of discrimination by the USDA that dates back to 1981.

``The government has attorneys who expected this and they’re on the lookout, which takes more time for all of us,″ Cross said this week.

In 1997, a small group of black farmers sued the USDA, saying many county-based organizations that delivered loans, emergency aid and other government help had consistently discriminated against black farmers.

The government and the farmers settled in March.

Officials at the USDA said fraudulent claims should be taken seriously to prevent waste of taxpayer dollars.

``We’re just glad someone caught it this early,″ said Andrew Kauders, a spokesman from the USDA.

Initially, lawyers representing farmers in more than 25 states said they expected fewer than 20,000 people to file a claim. But Cross said that number has jumped to more than 30,000 in the last few months.

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