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Local man says he’s helping black farmers, not scamming them

The Alabama Attorney General’s office issued a warning about scams related to black farmers discrimination litigation, but a local man who has been involved with meetings on the subject said he hasn’t done anything wrong.

According to a press release issued by Attorney General Luther Strange, the deadline for filing claims in the litigation against the U.S. Department of Agriculture has passed.

“I am concerned by reports that there may be meetings in Alabama where black farmers are told that, for a fee, someone can help them file claims and participate in a federal discrimination lawsuit,” Strange said in the release. “This is simply untrue, and farmers should not pay any money or provide personal information.”

The federal courts gave final approval to the settlement on Oct. 27, 2011, providing more than $1 billion to settle claims by African American farmers that the USDA discriminated against them between 1981 and 1996 based on race, wrongfully denying them farm loans, loan servicing, and other benefits, or giving them loans with unfair terms. The deadline to file a claim for the settlement was May 11, 2012, more than one year ago.

Information about the settlement is available through the toll-free number of its claims administrator, 1-877-810-8110. Among the information offered in a recorded message is that “There are no further opportunities to file a claim in this settlement regardless of what you may have heard elsewhere.”

“It is unfortunate that scammers prey upon the hopes of those in need,” Strange said. “We urge consumers to be cautious with anyone who is asking for a fee or for personal information, and to contact my Consumer Protection Section if they have concerns.”

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section may be contacted by visiting www.ago.alabama.gov or by calling its toll-free hotline at 1-800-392-5658.

Local evangelist Robert Binion has scheduled informational meetings about the litigation and been invited by other groups to travel and speak on the issue.

Binion said he hasn’t claimed to be able to add people to the litigation. Instead, Binion said he is trying to help people who were a part of the settlement but haven’t received compensation.

“The judge hasn’t told me it’s over,” Binion said. “It’s still ongoing. I’m trying to help these that already filed, and I’m going to continue to do it.”

Binion said he hasn’t required a fee to help anyone with their claims. When he has traveled to speak to groups, he has only accepted donations to help cover his expenses, he said.

“They are trying to make it seem like we’re trying to make money,” he said. “We’re not requiring fees of anybody. Folks are calling me asking me to come explain it.”

Binion said his next step is to carry a list of names of claimants who haven’t received compensation to a federal court in Washington D.C.

Those who wish to be included on the list and/or visit the capital with Binion can sign up at a Gospel singing at 5 p.m. Saturday at the E.M. Henry Park/West End Head Start building.

The singing is being sponsored by the Black Farmers Association and the Independent Black Farmers.

Performers will include The Spiritual Aires, Christian Harmonizers, Favored and soloists Bessie Campbell and Lucy Binion.

Donations of $7 will be taken at the door.

For more information, call Robert Binion at (205) 299-1873.