PROSECUTORS receive new inquiries about bogus tribal car tags

Friday, August 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ Cherokee County prosecutors are receiving new inquiries about an old scam involving bogus tribal car tags.

Several members of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma have gotten letters and 2002 car tag decals in the mail, District Attorney Dianne Barker-Harrold said Thursday.

``You purchased a Cherokee tag for your motor vehicle in 2001. The original registration was for one year. Enclosed is your FREE 2002 sticker at no cost to you. You may place it directly over the old 2001 sticker,'' the letter stated.

Tribal members who purchased car tags from a group called The Cherokee Nation 1839 received the letters. The group said it was the real Cherokee tribal government and issued its own car tags in August 2000.

In February, Cherokee County District Judge Tom Sewell ruled that the car tags were illegal and that The Cherokee Nation 1839 was not a legal representative of the tribe because it was not federally recognized.

People who originally bought the bogus tags wouldn't be ticketed until the tags expire, Barker-Harrold said. But people who use the 2002 replacement stickers can be ticketed and have their cars impounded.

``This is exactly the type of scenario we wanted to avoid and why we cautioned people not to purchase the 1839 tags,'' she said. ``As is usually the case, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.''

Motorists who are ticketed for the bogus tags can have their fines and court costs waived and tickets dismissed by getting a valid tag in a timely fashion, she said.

Cherokee Nation spokesman Mike Miller said about 200 people initially bought the illegal tags.

``About a year ago this time, some people were confused,'' Miller said. ``We've tried to make people aware so they don't get taken.''

The Cherokee Nation intends to issue its own tags within 60 days, he said.