Nearly 16,000 Rhode Island depositors whose money has been frozen since a private insurer went belly up in 1991 are getting paid off 19 years ahead of schedule.

The state bailout agency began mailing $57 million in payout checks on Oct. 15.

The checks went to depositors of the failed Marquette, Rhode Island Central, Davisville, and Central credit unions, as well as three banks.

The checks represented the money that has been frozen in liquidated banks and credit unions since Jan. 1, 1991, when Gov. Bruce Sundlun closed the financial institutions after the failure of their private insurer, the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corp.

The credit unions, which were among the state's largest, were unable to get reinsured by the National Credit Union Administration or find a merging partner and were forced to shut their doors. About 30,000 people were stranded without access to $735 million in deposits.

On Sept. 2 the agency paid off all accounts of less than $1,000. The rest of the depositors were to be paid off on a schedule ending in 2012.

Depositors Economic Protection Corp., which was managing the bailout, rearranged its finances to borrow money to pay off the remaining depositors, with interest.

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