Federal District Court in NNY collected millions in 2013, including $8 million in suit between U.S. and Mohawk tribe against Alcoa
Monday, February 10, 2014 - 5:35 pm

The federal District Court for Northern New York collected millions in judgments and forfeitures in 2013, including $8 million in a suit between the U.S. and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe versus Alcoa and Reynolds Metals in Massena.

Once again this year, the amount actually collected by the court significantly exceeds the annual cost of the entire office operation, said U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian in Albany.

In March 2013, $8,065,411 was recovered as part of a $20.3 million dollar settlement in the United States of America, The State of New York and The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe v. Aluminum Company of America and Reynolds Metals Co. civil case. The settlement resolved allegations that, for decades, Alcoa Inc. (Alcoa West), Reynolds Metals Company (now Alcoa East) and the former GM Central Foundry plant in Massena, adjacent to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe lands, had released hazardous substances into the St. Lawrence River environment. These substances, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), adversely impacted natural resources within the surrounding environment and contaminated the Mohawk community of Akwesasne by degrading natural resources used for traditional cultural practices. Most of this settlement, $18.5 million, will be combined with $1.8 million in restoration funds from a 2011 General Motors (GM) bankruptcy settlement, and used for restoration of the St. Lawrence River area.

The settlement funds include the following components:

• Approximately $8.4 million of the settlement will go to the Mohawk Tribe to support traditional cultural practices, including an apprenticeship program to promote Mohawk language and traditional teachings. A portion of those funds will also support cultural institutions, including youth outdoor education programs and horticultural programs for medicine, healing and nutrition.

• More than $10 million from the GM and Alcoa/Reynolds settlements will be spent on a variety of ecological restoration projects, including restoration and enhancement of wetlands, stream banks, native grasslands, bird nesting and roosting habitat, fisheries and fish habitat, and acquisition of unique habitat under threat of development. These projects may also benefit cultural practices that depend on these restored natural resources.

• Nearly $2 million will be spent by Alcoa/Reynolds to develop and upgrade two boat launches on the Raquette River and construct three new launches on the Grasse River to improve fishing and boating access to rivers in the Massena area.

Also, $4,006,217.22 in criminal and civil actions were collected in Fiscal Year 2013.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also worked with other components of the Department of Justice to collect an additional $14,313,192.93 in cases pursued jointly. Of this amount, $2,601,102.21 was collected in criminal actions and $11,712,090.72 was collected in civil actions.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, working with partner agencies and divisions, collected $11,051,256 in criminal, civil and administrative forfeitures in 2013. Forfeited assets are deposited into the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Fund and are used to restore funds to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes.