Five New York area Armenian charities are splitting $3 million with four Armenian groups in Los Angeles as a result of a $20 million settlement between the New York Life Insurance Company and descendants of Armenians killed in the Turkish Ottoman Empire 90 years ago.

Each of the charities received $333.333. The rest of the money will be split among potential heirs and beneficiaries of the 2,300 life insurance policies New York Life sold to Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire prior to 1915.

Armenians say more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire from 1915 until 1919. They call it a genocide, but Turkey rejects the claim saying the numbers have been exaggerated.

Three lawyers of Armenian background filed the class action lawsuit in 1999, contending that New York Life never compensated the families of those who bought policies. New York Life researched the issue and found 2,300 unpaid policies. Lawyer Brian Kabateck, says the particular charities were chosen because of their efforts to help Armenians who fled to the United States from the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

"The reason $3 million is being distributed immediately to charities is that a number of organizations that involve helping Armenians were selected because a number of families completely perished in the genocide and left no survivors," he said. "As a result of that, the money that is being distributed today is symbolic of money for charities and for charitable organizations."

The charities must use the money for educational and cultural purposes or to help needy Armenians in the United States and abroad. Descendants of survivors have until March 16 to file claims. They can find information on the website armenian insurance Mr.Kabateck says many of the beneficiaries do not live in the United States.

"We have taken a substantial effort to publicize in other centers of the world where Armenians have large populations: Russia, of course, Armenia. We have had people in Armenia giving press conferences and talking to people over there and making lists available in rural parts of Armenia. [In] Argentina, there is a very large Armenian population. France, in Marseilles there is a large population," he added.

Mr. Kabateck says the lawyers are now trying to reach a settlement with two other insurance companies, but he would not divulge their names.