A group of residents, both FSM and US nationals living in the Federated States of Micronesia, are suing Bank of Guam for withholding their Economic Impact Payments and freezing accounts which received the payment from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
One of the complainants, a US citizen Craig Reffner in Pohnpei, who had worked in Palau previously, said that their attorney is ready to file their complaint next week.
Mr. Reffner said that they had the same issues as many in Palau, where Bank of Guam froze their accounts, held their checks and sent their money back to the IRS, after they had applied and been approved for payment by the IRS.
Another American, Cody Spence, said he’d filed his taxes in the US but when his money was sent, the bank took it and sent it back. He said that this made things difficult for himself and his family and kids.
The issue is much more sinister in Pohnpei, said Reffner. He alleged that some of the locals had families in the US who received their EIP checks, had endorsed them and sent them to their families in the islands. He said the bank refused to cash the checks.
Members of this group share the belief that actions taken by Bank of Guam is simply based on discrimination against Micronesians.
According to the group, none of their leaders whom they’d spoken to about the issue had said or done anything about it.
Bank of Guam President and Chief Executive Office Joaquin P.L.G. Cook responded to Palau’s President Remengesau last year regarding similar complaints, saying that the steps Bank of Guam had taken to place customer accounts with EIP payments on “temporary hold” was based on discussions with the US Internal Revenue Service.
“The instructions we received from the IRS indicate that the Bank has taken the appropriate steps,” stated Mr. Joaquin Cook, Bank of Guam President.
Under the IRS Lead’s program, Bank of Guam reported these accounts as questionable or suspect transactions to the IRS.
A letter from IRS Leads Center in California to Bank of Guam, a copy of which was obtained by Island Times, instructs Bank of Guam how and where to return the funds to the IRS. Should it be found out later that the recipient is not fraudulent, the money will be returned by the IRS to the account holder.
The IRS, in the letter, instructs Bank of Guam to direct account holders to contact the IRS directly at a given telephone number if they have questions regarding the return of funds.